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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C

Paramedics to vote on industrial action up to and including strike action

Siptu members of the National Ambulance Service will receive ballot papers next week.

PARAMEDICS ACROSS THE country are to be sent ballot papers as they prepare to vote on potential industrial action. 

Siptu members of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) are to receive the ballots in the early days of next week.

They will be asked to cast their votes on action up to and including strike action.

A regional organiser for Siptu confirmed the news to The Journal, speaking on condition of anonymity as an official statement on the process is due to be released tomorrow. 

Paramedics have long threatened the action over what they have described as unprecedented pressure being placed on staff. The majority of the nation’s paramedics belong to the Siptu trade union.

In recent years, paramedics have said they have had to contend with serious staff shortages as well as burnout as a result of working during Covid.

A text message sent to Siptu members on behalf of the union, seen by The Journal, says workers will receive their ballots next week. They will then vote on potential action.

This publication has also learned that off-duty paramedics are being urged to return from leave in a bid to alleviate the current crisis within the system. 

The health service is coming under an increasing amount of pressure at the moment due to the number of patients presenting with respiratory viruses.

While Covid and RSV are significant factors, officials have singled out influenza as being of particular concern, with cases increasing rapidly and no clear indication of when they might peak.

One text message sent to paramedics on behalf of the NAS and seen by this publication reads:

“The NAS across the country is experiencing a significant demand for acute patient care. The NAS would appeal to all off-duty ICOs (intermediate care officers), paramedics, advanced paramedics and officers to please consider giving your time to support and help with this current surge in demand.”

Earlier this week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the HSE was to call on senior medical staff, including consultants, to come in at weekends over the next few weeks to help ease the pressure on the system. 

That move was today criticised by the Irish Medical Organisation, which insisted that the commitment of the medical workforce was not the issue, adding: “The problems are lack of capacity, lack of beds and the chronic shortage in consultant numbers.”

New figures today from nursing union the INMO showed that the number of patients waiting for beds in Irish hospitals had fallen for the second day in a row.

The union said that 639 admitted patients were waiting for beds this morning, with 473 waiting in emergency departments and a further 166 on wards elsewhere in hospitals.

It is a fall from the 931 patients who were without beds in Irish hospitals on Tuesday.

In a Cabinet meeting yesterday Donnelly told government colleagues that up to the week of Christmas, 2,331 laboratory confirmed cases of flu were identified in hospitals, compared with around 1,000 cases in the same period in 2019.

Of these, 637 were hospitalised compared to 350 in 2019.

The minister added that there had been a 14% increase in the number of people over 75 attending Emergency Departments when compared to 2019.

Siptu’s communictions department had not responded to a request for comment on the ballot for industrial action at the time of publication.  

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