Children’s hospitals to postpone procedures on two nurses’ strike days

Inpatient and day cases for next Tuesday and Thursday to be rescheduled

Nurses on the picket line at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Nurses on the picket line at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

The three children’s hospitals in Dublin are to postpone planned inpatient and day-case procedures as well as outpatient appointments scheduled for next Tuesday and Thursday due to planned strike action by nurses.

The hospitals have also warned that children who are due to be admitted as inpatients or day cases on days before or after the two planned strike days – February 5th and 7th – may also have these appointments deferred.

Other hospitals are expected to begin notifying patients on Friday of cancellations of planned surgery, day-case procedures as well as outpatient appointments scheduled to take place next Tuesday.

It is unclear at this stage how many hospitals will also postpone procedures planned for Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive has warned that mental health services could face severe disruption if industrial action by psychiatric nurses continued over a number of days.

The HSE also signalled on Thursday that a planned strike by psychiatric nurses towards the middle of February would have a significant impact on routine day services.

The Government again indicated on Thursday that it wanted to re-engage in talks to find a resolution to the current nurses’ dispute.

Contingency arrangements

Talks took place between the HSE and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation about contingency arrangements to apply during the planned strikes next week. However, it is understood there were no development regarding the substantive issues at the heart of the dispute.

Psychiatric nurses will operate an overtime ban in the country’s mental health services for a second consecutive day on Friday as part of the dispute over pay and staffing issues.

HSE national contingency co-ordinator for the current industrial action Bernard Gloster said it had experienced challenges in nine mental health facilities on Thursday morning as a result of an overtime ban put in place by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA). It said six centres in Dublin were affected as well as two in the southwest and one in the southeast.

He said that in four locations the problems in relation to the changeover of staff continued until lunchtime.

It is understood the issue arose as the PNA had instructed members not to go on shift if it was not fully staffed. However, in some cases the operation of the day shift relied on personnel working on overtime who were not available to the ban put in place by the union.

Concerns

Mr Gloster said the HSE would have concerns about the impact of the overtime ban on Friday.

He said if the overtime ban continued for three days next week it could lead to quite significant levels of disruption.

Mr Gloster said the mental health services depended significantly on nursing personnel and that the HSE had 4,700 whole-time equivalent nurse positions.

He said it was seeking to recruit 500 further personnel.

He said to operate services the HSE spent €16 million per year – or 5 per cent of the mental health budget – on overtime and a further €16 million on nursing staff provided by agencies.

“You cannot have a situation where you are spending 5 per cent of your pay on overtime and where the majority of staff providing that overtime withdraw their co-operation and not have an impact,” he said.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney called for a return to the Labour Court for talks to avoid two more days of strike action by nurses next week.

Mr Coveney told the Dáil: “We do want to talk.”

“We want the Labour Court to be able to do its job” and to work with management and Government and nursing unions “to make recommendations as a basis for a way forward that can avoid the impact of strike action for two days next week,” he said.