Simon Harris ‘disappointed’ by health staff strike ballot

Siptu to ballot 30,000 health support staff on a variety of pay issues next month

Minister for Health Simon Harris said industrial action was not in the interests of staff or  patients.   Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Health Simon Harris said industrial action was not in the interests of staff or patients. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he is disappointed health service support staff are to ballot for strike action.

Siptu plans to ballot some 30,000 healthcare assistants, radiographers, home helps and other grades on a variety of pay issues next month.

Mr Harris said on Thursday industrial action was not in the interests of staff and certainly not in the interests of patients.

“I would encourage Siptu, a very large trade union, to use the mechanisms available to them, within the Lansdowne Road agreement, to engage with the HSE as the employer,’’ he added.

Mr Harris said it was really important in the interests of patients that there was engagement to try to resolve issues.

“I do not think a strike will help anybody,’’ he said. “You only ever resolve a dispute by sitting down around a table and talking.’’

Recruitment fair

Mr Harris was speaking to journalists at the Health Service Executive (HSE) headquarters in Dublin during a visit to a recruitment fair for nurses.

He said 52 nurses and midwives had been interviewed on Thursday, following the 36 on Wednesday, and 19 nurses were offered jobs.

Mr Harris said he had been really encouraged by the initiative, having spoken to a number of applicants.

“Many nurses want to come home for family and community reasons . . . and my message to them is the Irish health service needs you back,’’ he added.

Mr Harris said he would reflect on the feedback from nurses about the need for more flexible and part-time working hours and more centralised information.

“We certainly have a lot of food for thought and I will be working with the HSE to make sure we streamline the recruitment process in 2017,’’ he added.

The Minister said the number of delayed hospital discharges – patients medically fit to leave but without the facilities to cope – now stood at 436, the lowest since 2011.

He said this compared to 832 in October 2014 and 659 when he came to office seven months ago. He said significant additional resources had been pumped into home helps, aid appliances and transitional care beds.

“We are not done yet,’’ he added. “We are going to continue to drive that number down.’’

Mr Harris said the winter initiative target of 500 by the end of the year had been exceeded. “We are not in any way complacent about that,’’ he added.