Second day of nurses strike has ‘dramatic impact’ on services

About 50,000 people have their medical appointments cancelled today

Speaking outside the site of the new National Children's Hospital at St James's Hospital, Dublin INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha has stated that the nurses strike will continue until the pay issue is resolved. Video: Bryan O’Brien

 

The second day of industrial strikes by Irish nurses and midwives has had a “dramatic impact” on services and also led to considerable criticism of the Government from the Opposition and the public.

Around 40,000 nurses and midwives from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) are striking over pay, which they claim is leading to staff retention issues.

They are seeking pay parity with other medical professionals which would equate to an approximately € 7,000 pay rise per nurse, or a rise of around 12 per cent. The Government says it is not in the position to fund pay increases and that to do so would prompt pay claims from other public servants.

Tuesday is the second in a series of eight planned 24-hour strikes planned by nurses in pursuit of their pay claim. Nurses have picketed 240 locations - up from 82 facilities from the first stoppage on Wednesday last week. About 50,000 people have had medical appointments cancelled today due to the strike.

Emergency departments are open but with reduced nursing staff cover so the HSE are asking people not to go to emergency departments unless absolutely necessary.

Community nursing services and health centre nurse clinics are also closed. Injury units are closed and all day surgery, outpatient and inpatient surgery appointments have been cancelled.

The affected services now include respite centres for people with disabilities and elderly people.

The HSE’s interim national director of Community Operations, David Walsh said no admissions for respite care had been made this week due to the nurses strike.

He told RTÉ’s News at One he did not have an exact figures of the numbers impacted but said the lack of respite services would affect the elderly and young people with disabilities who required respite as part of their package of support.

The ongoing industrial action is going to have “a dramatic impact” on the level of support for older people. Mr Walsh said he was most concerned at the impact of the lack of public health nurse visits on the elderly and babies.

Further strikes are scheduled to take place on February 7th, and February 12th, 13th, 14th, 19th and 21st.

According to the INMO, the Government must address nurses’ salaries to resolve the dispute.

Speaking at St James’s Hospital in Dublin today, the head of the INMO Phil Ní Sheaghdha said nurses were said any settlement would have to involve a review of pay scales.

“The reason nurses are leaving (the country) is that they are being offered better pay abroad. We are in a competitive market,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.

“If the Government insists the only remedy cannot involve pay, then we have a huge problem.”

The unions last night rejected proposals from Minister for Health Simon Harris to hold talks aimed at resolving the dispute which would focus on staffing issues, but not pay. Ms Ní Sheaghdha said this offer was “cynical”.

“Nurses are taking a stand. They are saying this is not good enough. We have to open more beds but we will never do that without an increase in the nurse population. And to do that you have to look at the base salary,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.

She said the public had been very supportive of nurses in the current dispute and understood nurses were taking a stand on their behalf.

She said pay awards that nurses were receiving under the current public service agreement represented a restoration of previous cuts.

She said maintained that when this agreement expires at the end of 2020 nurses would be earning less than in 2008. Last week the Department of Public Expenditure strongly denied that that would be the case.

About 120 patients were affected by the cancellation of day care mental health services on Tuesday morning, the HSE has said.

Nursing staff who participate in the operation of community mental health services were re-deployed to work in hospitals or in 24-hour hotels where patients are accommodated.

On Wednesday and Thursday the Psychiatric Nurses Association is to extend its overtime ban to run for 24 hours.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show on Tuesday, emergency medicine consultant Dr Fergal Hickey says there was no evidence the Government was addressing the fundamental problems in the health service.

He warned both sides will have to move from their entrenched position to negotiate a resolution.

Dr Hickey predicted that there would be even more severe problems within the service next week when nurses plan to strike for three days in a row. - Additional reporting: PA