Nurses, pay and the health service

 

Sir, – I congratulate Ann Noonan, a senior staff nurse, on her eloquent and dignified opinion piece in The Irish Times (“I am a nurse – this is why I’m striking”, Opinion & Analysis, January 9th).

Indeed, nurses do not wish to strike. I am a nurse who over nearly four decades has borne witness to the increasingly impossible task faced by nurses, who strive daily to ensure that their patients are cared for in a dignified manner, where their needs are prioritised, their safety paramount, and their care given by competent, highly educated, and motivated professionals.

Healthcare has changed beyond recognition over the last few decades, as has the need for highly educated and motivated professionals to provide this care. The nursing profession has obligingly evolved in order to meet this need. We have an exceptionally well-educated and in many cases, specialised workforce, who, due to the ever-increasing pressures put on them, either leave the profession, or leave the country, to the welcoming arms of other health services around the world.

Patient expectation also has rightly soared, along with the complexity of the health challenges they face. The Irish nurse is more than willing to meet these challenge, but cannot do so in the current climate of understaffing, inadequate bed provision, longer hours than comparable health professionals, lack of respect and inadequate pay. For too long our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

It is time for Government Ministers and HSE officials to sit down for meaningful discussion with nurses. Our patients deserve so much more. Our nurses deserve the opportunity to provide the excellent care they wish to give. – Yours, etc,

AUDREY AL-KAISY,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I empathise with the nurses and midwives in their salary increase demand. I might add that I have no attachment or association whatsoever with their union; suffice it to say that I am just a concerned citizen looking for fair play. If one compares the salary of a nurse to that of a TD and question value for taxpayers’ money spent, €35,000 versus €95,000, there is doubt about where the value lies. I think the Government should reflect on this before getting into a possible prolonged squabble which will benefit nobody, not least the hospitalised patients. – Yours, etc,

AUSTIN SAVAGE,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Who’ll count the numbers on trolleys while the nurses are on strike? – Yours, etc,

GERRY STAUNTON,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – The 24-hour strike on January 30th by nurses is not just about pay. It’s about what kind of health service we want. The crisis in our health system cannot be addressed if we can’t recruit and retain the nurses we need.

Paschal Donohoe can deny that this is about recruitment and retention, but everyone who has suffered in our public hospitals know it is about that. We are short over 1,000 nurses and our mental health services and general hospitals are in crisis because of this.

All across the public health service we see the effects of the inability of this Government to keep and train the skilled staff we need to provide a modern health service.

We won’t end the trolley crisis, the staffing crisis in nursing and mental health sectors unless we deal justly with the nurses and others and pay them a decent rise and reverse fully the cuts implemented during austerity years.

The Minister may say we can’t afford to pay them, but the reality is we could find the money to pay unsecured junior bondholders, to increase military spending and we are running a budget surplus; we have the money, but not the political will.

It is time the Minister and the Taoiseach wake up to the crisis that they have caused in our public health system. Full support to the nurses. – Yours, etc,

BRÍD SMITH TD,

People Before Profit,

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.