Hospitals advising patients of cancellations due to nurse strike
INMO says forthcoming industrial action will be ‘a real strike’
Ambulance staff at the ambulance facility on Davitt Road, Dublin, during their work stoppage on Tuesday in their dispute over trade union representation rights. Photograph Nick Bradshaw
Hospitals have begun advising thousands of patients that elective admissions and planned out-patient appointments for January 30th are to be cancelled due to strike action.
Nurses and midwives are to hold the first in a series of strikes on Wednesday of next week.
The Mater Hospital in Dublin said it would be providing emergency services only on January 30th, and on any subsequent days of industrial action. “ All other services will be postponed, including but not limited to elective surgery, out-patient clinics, minor injuries unit service and day services.”
The Ireland East Hospital Group said it had issued a directive to its hospitals to begin informing patients of cancellations. The group includes the Mater Hospital, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar, St Luke’s General Hospital, Kilkenny, Wexford General Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital and the Eye and Ear Hospital.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said on Tuesday the industrial action would be “the most serious strike our country’s health service has seen”.
“While some services will run, many will be in total shutdown,” it said. Patients should contact the HSE “to find out about their specific needs”.
“The HSE has confirmed that they will notify patients. The HSE has already notified GPs and other community services.”
The INMO said it had notified the HSE that its members would be providing only life-saving and emergency care during the strike. “They have asked us for some exceptions, many of which have we have agreed to. But there should be no doubt. This is a real strike.”
Talks between nursing unions and health service management will begin at the Workplace Relations Commission on Wednesday in an attempt to find a resolution to the dispute which centres around pay and staff recruitment levels.
Earlier, direct negotiations between the parties and talks involving the group overseeing compliance with the public service agreement did not lead to any breakthrough.
Minister for Health Simon Harris briefed the Cabinet on Tuesday regarding the scheduled strike. A spokeswoman for Mr Harris said he believed the dispute could be resolved, but was clear “any resolution must be found within the public service pay agreement”.
Meanwhile, the country’s largest public service union Fórsa warned of pressure for further pay claims in the health sector and elsewhere if some groups of workers, presumably a reference to nurses, were granted pay benefits beyond those set out in the current public service agreement.
Fórsa told members in a newsletter on Tuesday that the benefits due to members under the public service accord, including pay rises, improvements for so-called “new entrants” and potential measures to address recruitment and retention issues, “are likely to be jeopardised if a union fails to abide by its terms”.
“Fórsa is on record to say that it, therefore, expects all the parties to the agreement, including employers and other unions, to abide by the terms of the deal in the same way.”
The union also said that any arrangements to apply after the current agreement expired should, at the appropriate time, “be negotiated collectively to ensure that any resources available for improvements in pay and working conditions are allocated fairly among all grades and professions”.
Members of the INMO are scheduled to stage six 24-hour work stoppages on January 30th, and February 5th, 7th, 12th, 13th and 14th.
The Psychiatric Nurses Association separately plans to put in place an overtime ban on January 31st, February 1st, 5th and 6th, and then to escalate its campaign of industrial action to full strikes on February 12th, 13th and 14th.