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HSE warns of 'significant cancellation' of some procedures as Minister calls for talks to avert strike

The Finance Minister said he’s determined to protect the public service stability agreement.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe
Image: Niall Carson via PA iMAGES

Updated Jun 19th 2019, 12:20 PM

THE HSE HAS said that there will be “significant cancellation” of scope procedures across some Irish hospitals tomorrow while Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has called for efforts to continue today to avoid the planned strike by health support staff. 

The strike is set to take place after talks between the trade union Siptu and the health service at the Workplace Relations Commission failed to produce an agreement. 

The industrial action will involve up to 10,000 Siptu members working in portering, household and catering services as well as employed as health care assistants, maternity care assistants, laboratory aides, chefs and surgical instrument technicians.

In a statement this afternoon, the HSE said the strike will involve a “significant” number of staff across 38 hospitals and healthcare facilities. These staff make “an essential contribution to the effective running of our health services every day”, the HSE added.

Contingency planning is continuing throughout the day, with hospitals saying that the services impacted most by the industrial action will include the cancellation of scope procedures, reduced outpatient services, reduced laboratory services for GPs and reduced operating theatre activity. 

However, the degree to which these and other services will be affected will vary across the different hospital sites. 

Patients will be contacted by their local hospital or healthcare service if a scheduled procedure or service has been impacted by the dispute, the HSE added. 

‘We need clarity’

Appearing on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Donohoe said that he will do what he can to deal with the “disruption” that may happen tomorrow, adding that the HSE is putting contingency plans in place. 

When asked if workers will be penalised for breaking the public service stability agreement he said that experience had taught him that in the day before a strike “if I begin to talk about the additional penalties that will be coming in it can have an effect on what we need to do to avoid the strike happening in the first place”.

We will do what we can across today to deal with this issue but we have to ensure that anything that can be done recognises that we have an agreement in place that I am determined to protect.

He added that there is a wide variety of competing claims being “pressed by the broad union movement” in relation to the future of public pay in the country.

“We need to protect the agreement and we need clarity on where we stand on those issues,” he said. 

Siptu said the strike was part of a dispute regarding “the failure to implement pay increases arising from an agreed job evaluation scheme”.

“It is time for the Minister for Health, Simon Harris and the Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, to step in and resolve this dispute. Failure to do this will undoubtedly bring pressures on the delivery of health services,” Siptu deputy general secretary for the public sector John King said. 

With reporting by Seán Murray

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