Nursing leaders to consider more strikes at meeting on Saturday

Stoppage on Tuesday likely to affect more people than strike earlier this week

Nurses on the picket line at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin this week. Photograph: Collins

Nurses on the picket line at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin this week. Photograph: Collins

 

The leadership of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is to meet on Saturday to consider further strike action in addition to the five 24-hour work stoppages scheduled to take place during the next two weeks.

Nearly 40,000 nurses are scheduled to go on strike on Tuesday and Thursday next week as part of the current dispute over pay and staffing issues.

Members of the INMO are also planning work stoppages for three days the following week, on February 12th, 13th and 14th.

The INMO executive committee will meet on Saturday to look at extending the current industrial action beyond the work stoppages already announced.

The union said it was looking at escalating the dispute further as the Government had not made any serious proposals aimed at finding a resolution.

It appears more people will be affected by the work stoppage on Tuesday than was the case as a result of the first strike by nurses last Wednesday.

The HSE said it expected all hospital outpatient, inpatient and day-surgery appointments scheduled for Tuesday would be cancelled.

“We expect injury units to be closed. We expect routine community nursing services and health centre nurse clinics to be cancelled with public day centres and day hospitals for older people or people with disabilities to close,” the HSE said.

In addition, planned admissions, including respite and rehabilitation, to public community nursing units and specified centres for people with intellectual disability would be cancelled, the HSE said.

The HSE said it was continuing “to engage with the INMO to put in place arrangements for the safe provision of services, in particular in the area of urgent care and cancer services”.

Emergency derogation

The health authority also urged the public to attend emergency services only if absolutely essential on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, emergency department doctors urged the INMO and the HSE that their facilities should have a derogation from the strike.

The doctors said it was “entirely incomprehensible” that emergency departments “wouldn’t have been given the same level of derogation as critical care units such as intensive-care units and coronary care units .

There is also concern among some obstetricians that derogations from the strike have only been provided in two areas of maternity services: delivery suites and neonatal intensive care units.

One leading doctor said there were 19 maternity hospitals and units across Ireland and it was not possible to consider a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it came to applying derogations for strike action.

“Some small regional units may go for days without dealing with an acutely unwell woman but this is a daily occurrence at the major maternity hospitals.”

“All routine antenatal clinics both in the hospital and in the community are cancelled. Antenatal care is the cornerstone of safety in maternity services. Each visit with a pregnant woman is an opportunity to carry out a detailed risk assessment of her and her baby’s wellbeing,” one obstetrician said.

“Many conditions of pregnancy such are pre-eclampsia present very few physical symptoms for the woman, and it is only when the woman has an interaction with a midwife or doctor that this condition can be recognised and managed. Cancelling antenatal clinics could result in a pregnant woman being at home with undiagnosed hypertension that worsens every day and can become life-threatening for the woman and her unborn baby,” the obstetrician said.

Increased risk

The obstetrician said cancelling elective surgery lists, particularly Caesarean section, caused an increased risk to the mother and baby.

“Due to current capacity and activity issues it is not possible to simply move elective Caesarean sections from one day to the next as all days have fully booked lists with zero extra theatre capacity.”

There has been no indication of any further moves to bring about a resolution to the dispute.

Informed sources said there had been informal contacts between the parties and these were likely to continue over the coming days.