Psychiatric nurses’ overtime ban shows issues remain – Coveney
Tánaiste says PNA has been patient with Government’s slow progress on resolution
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said progress was being made, but it had been slow. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Tánaiste Simon Coveney has urged psychiatric nurses to use the State’s industrial relations machinery rather than the overtime ban they have begun because of staff shortages.
Mr Coveney described as very disappointing the decision to introduce an overtime ban when the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and health service management were still engaged in conciliation through the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Mr Coveney said genuine progress had been made “although it has been slow”. The decision to introduce a ban was a serious development that caused some surprise “but it is a reminder that the outstanding issues need to conclude”.
He was responding in the Dáil to Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly who highlighted the ban by nurses on overtime from 7 am on Thursday.
She said the nurses “have been more than patient and the Government has relied on their goodwill for far too long”.
The Dublin Fingal TD said that, in some areas of the service, these shortages amount to a reduction of 20 per cent in nursing staff and there are 700 vacancies nationally.
Efforts to de-escalate the situation had been going on for more than five months but little progress had been made, while they had been propping up the service using overtime.
She said they did this as a gesture of goodwill just to keep the services going.
Ms O’Reilly warned that “if the recruitment and retention crisis in mental health is to be addressed and the goodwill of psychiatric nurses restored, it requires a clear demonstration of urgency and commitment from the HSE”.
Mr Coveney said he understood the frustration of the PNA at what it saw as very slow progress.
But he urged the association to reconsider the ban and “to continue to engage fully with the industrial relations machinery of the State to resolve the remaining issues in this dispute”.
He said the HSE was continuing to recruit nurses to the health service including psychiatric nurses.