Thousands face cancellation of hospital services due to strike

Talks aimed at averting planned stoppage by nurses to resume on Thursday

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said her union was open to explore all avenues that would avert a planned strike next week. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said her union was open to explore all avenues that would avert a planned strike next week. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Thousands of patients face having medical appointments and elective procedures scheduled for next Wednesday cancelled as hospitals prepare to provide only emergency care during a planned strike by nurses.

While talks aimed at averting work stoppages by more than 40,000 nurses next Wednesday will resume on Thursday, hospitals have said the strikes would have a significant impact on services.

The three main children’s hospitals in Dublin said they had begun the process of contacting parents in order to inform them of postponements of inpatient admissions and outpatient appointments scheduled for Wednesday, January 30th and this process would continue over the coming days.

The overall children’s hospital group, Children’s Health Ireland, said its constituent hospitals at Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght were currently establishing the number of patients who were likely to be impacted by the industrial action with a focus on those due for admission or to attend an outpatient appointment next Wednesday.

It said the hospitals “will endeavour to reschedule inpatient admissions and outpatient appointments as soon as it can and it will ensure that all patients are kept informed”.

Teaching hospitals

Major teaching hospitals in Dublin such as St James’s and Tallaght indicated they would be providing emergency services only if the strike went ahead.

The overall Dublin Midlands Hospital Group said services that would be postponed included elective surgery, outpatient clinics and some day procedures.

The Saolta group, which comprises hospitals in the west and northwest of the country also warned elective surgery, outpatient clinics and day services faced postponement.

“The impending industrial action on Wednesday next will have significant impact on all services across every hospital in the group,” it said.

The South/South West group said each of its constituent hospitals would begin the process of contacting patients over the remainder of this week.

“The impending industrial action will have significant impact on all hospital services. Postponed services will include elective surgery, outpatient clinics and day services,” it said.

The Health Service Executive has not said exactly how many patients would be affected by the cancellation of outpatient appointments and elective procedures.

However, medical sources said major hospitals would see well over 1,000 outpatients at clinics each day.

Talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) between nursing unions and public-service management were adjourned after about four hours on Wednesday and will resume on Thursday.

The general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said her union was open to explore all avenues that would avert a planned strike next week.

She said the talks on Wednesday had centred on each side setting out their views and reiterating their points.

She said the WRC conciliation officers had “given a clear indication that there was a reflection required”.

Frank exchange

The general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), Peter Hughes, said there had been a frank exchange of views.

Speaking at the start of the talks the HSE’s head of human resources, Rosarii Mannion, said management could not go outside the confines of the existing public-service agreement in trying to avert the planned strike.

There has been speculation that the parties may explore a two-stage arrangement involving initially additional staff and changes to rosters with a review of pay and responsibilities to take place later on.

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 PNA 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.

Nurses are seeking increases to bring their pay into line with other graduate entry grades in the health service such as physiotherapists who, they maintain, receive up to €7,000 more per year. They contend that such increases are required to tackle recruitment and retention difficulties in the health service.