HSE says services will be ‘compromised’ if nurses’ strike goes ahead
Work stoppage seems set to take place on Wednesday after talks break down
Stoppage over pay and nurse recruitment and retention issues looks set to take place after talks between nursing unions and public service management ended without agreement on Friday evening. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA Wire
The HSE has said its ability to deliver safe sustainable services will be “compromised” if a national strike by almost 40,000 nurses goes ahead as scheduled next Wednesday.
The 24-hour stoppage over pay and nurse recruitment and retention issues in hospitals and community services seems set to take place after talks between nursing unions and public service management ended without agreement on Friday evening.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) last night called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to intervene directly in the dispute.
In a confidential internal briefing note on current contingency arrangements for the strike the HSE said no triage of patients would take place in the emergency departments of hospitals across the country during the stoppage. It said it had appealed to the INMO to “further consider” its decision on emergency department triage particularly in smaller hospitals “given the potential risk issues.
The HSE said the organisation had insisted that only “life-preserving services” would be provided during the strike.
“The INMO is clear that any nurses not in the INMO who work will not receive co-operation from INMO however the management position is that all staff not in dispute should present for work as normal.
“Management’s position is that any non-INMO staff rostered during the dispute are expected to present for duty”, the HSE memo stated.
The HSE said it had agreed that organisation’s nurses and midwives who carry out duties agreed by the union during the stoppage will be paid.
The HSE document, dated January 25th, said there will be no cover in local injury units, and no gynaecological appointments or procedures, or outpatient maternity services, on the day of the strike. Pregnant women will not be induced on the day of the strike unless their case is seen to be an emergency.
Just two nurses will staff the floor of each large emergency department, with two more assigned to the resuscitation area and two to support. Triage services will be provided in children’s hospital emergency units.
Among the services exempted from the strike action are intensive care, burns units, emergency cath lab services, oncology/haematology and radiotherapy treatments, palliative care and transplantation services “where an organ becomes available”.
In relation to cancer surgery the HSE note said “discussions must commence with the local strike committees regarding the urgency of cases to be scheduled”.
The HSE said it had secured a derogation from the strike for surgical terminations of pregnancy “only for women coming up to the 12 weeks threshold”.
Dialysis units will operate a Christmas Day service on the first day of strike action but will be exempt on the second day.
The document said elective gynaecological surgery should not be carried out on the days prior to the strike where those undergoing the procedure could still be patients on the day of the strike.
The HSE said the INMO “expects all outpatient and elective work to be cancelled now”.
“Regarding elective hospitals, the INMO has a view that all elective patients are to be cancelled, essentially leaving these hospitals empty.”
About 15,000 patients will be affected by the cancellation of outpatient department appointments.
While the INMO is to stage the first of six planned 24-hour strikes on Wednesday, members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) are to put in place a ban on overtime on Thursday. It plans to escalate its campaign to work stoppages towards the middle of February.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said after three days of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission the union had received no proposals for their members.
PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said “there was nothing on the table and the gap between the parties has not narrowed”.
He said the Government now needed to intervene “with intent”.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said: “The big question our members are going to ask us is where is the Taoiseach, where is the Minister for Finance? How come they are not trying intently to resolve the matters at stake here which are, after all, about patient care and how we provide care to patients.”
Currently there was no indication that there was any intent on the part of the Government to put forward any proposal to avert the dispute, she added.