“Paltry and tokenistic” is how Labour’s health spokesperson Alan Kelly has described proposals by Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe for new talks on resolving the nurses dispute which should focus on issues relating to staffing levels and working conditions but not pay.
He told Newstalk Breakfast that the offer was in fact “kind of insulting” and that be believed there would be a compromise eventually and that both sides should “sit at the table and talk.”
Mr Kelly said he believed there will be compromise eventually and he asked why the Government could not come up with a solution now without putting the public through a long strike and hardship.
He denied that if Labour were in Government the situation would be the same, “fiscally we didn’t have the same space, there is more elasticity now. If we were in Government we wouldn’t have gotten to this place.”
The Tipperary TD said he had family members who are nurses and had talked with nurses on the picket line.
He said he had been struck by the “huge age gap” with very few in the age group 30-40. Most of these were working elsewhere in the world, he said.
“I stand in full solidarity with the nurses.
There is a whole range of issues that could be introduced to reduce agency costs and recruitment costs which would mean more money for nurses pay.
He called on Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe to be honest with nurses, to sit down and engage with them.
They had been “asleep at the wheel” when it came to the over run at the national children’s hospital and they needed to ensure that they engaged with nurses.
Earlier: Up to 50,000 appointments cancelled over nurses’ action
By Conall Ó Fátharta
Update 6.30am: As many as 50,000 outpatient and community medical appointments will be cancelled today as nursing unions plan a major escalation in their industrial action.
Today’s strike by around 37,000 members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is the union’s second day of strike action and comes soon after it announced a major escalation of its industrial action over pay and staffing levels.
The HSE confirmed yesterday that some 50,000 people would see their appointments in hospital and community services cancelled as a result of today’s industrial action.
In a briefing yesterday, it said that emergency departments will be open, but with reduced staffing, and that the public should expect delays. It also advised people only to attend in the case of a medical emergency.
All outpatient services will be cancelled today, affecting approximately 13,000 patients. All in-patient and day surgery appointments are also cancelled, which will affect some 2,000 patients.
A small number of urgent and complex cases will go ahead and those patients have been contacted directly.
Minor injury units will be closed, while GP services, which are the first port of call for most patients, will operate as normal. Maternity services will also operate as normal.
In terms of community care, all routine community nursing services and health centre nurse clinics are cancelled. Nurse-led public day centres and day hospitals for older people and people with disabilities are closed.
All planned admissions to public community nursing units, including respite and rehabilitation, are cancelled.
All planned admissions to respite services for people with an intellectual disability have been cancelled.
At the weekend, the INMO announced an escalation and additional dates for the nurses and midwives strikes in the face of what it claims is the Government’s refusal to meaningfully engage with the union.
Nurses and midwives go back to the picket lines at 8am tomorrow. We asked some of them what going on strike meant to them. ✊ pic.twitter.com/AsVBtZ0rJV
— Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (@INMO_IRL) February 4, 2019
The executive council of the union announced extra strike days on February 19 and 21, in addition to the already-announced strike today and four more on February 7, 12, 13 and 14.
The number of services on strike this week will also increase from 82 to 240. The INMO said that it will also be organising a national rally at Dublin’s Garden Of Remembrance on February 9.
The first strike in the dispute took place on 30 January — just the second time that the INMO has gone on national strike in a century.
The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) has announced that it will escalate its strike action also.
Its officer board met yesterday and agreed that the planned overtime ban to take place today, Wednesday and Thursday will be escalated on Wednesday and Thursday to a full 24-hour ban to include overnight rosters.
Today’s ban will remain as a daytime overtime ban. The action will apply to adult mental health services.
PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said this week’s action by psychiatric nurses was going ahead in the absence of any meaningful engagement or proposals from the Government to address the current recruitment and retention crisis in nursing.
“The extension of the overtime ban to overnight on Wednesday and Thursday will, unfortunately, show the reliance of mental health services on overtime, despite the repeated assurances from [the] Government that there is no substantive issue with understaffing and recruitment and retention in mental health nursing,” he stated.