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Many organisations within the health system have been told the HSE is considering extending the freeze. Alamy
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation

INMO to engage with members over industrial action as HSE consider extending recruitment freeze

The nurses and midwives union will engage with its members over potentially taking industrial action.

THE UNION REPRESENTING Irish nurses and midwives will engage with its members to consider taking industrial action as many organisations have been made aware that HSE management is considering extending its current recruitment freeze.

HSE could possibly be extending its recruitment freeze to all categories of employees in the system until the end of the year, the National Joint Council in the Irish Health Service learned this morning.

In a statement from the executive board of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) this evening, it said it decided it will consult with members of the union on the next steps forward.

The decision to impose a recruitment freeze was taken by CEO Bernard Gloster last month after the Department of Health employed over 200 more staff members than it had planned or budgeted for this year.

If members of the INMO do decide to take industrial action, the will join colleagues in managerial and administrative positions who have chosen to work-to-rule – a move that was criticised by the Department.

In a statement, the INMO executives said the announcement of the extension to recruitment freeze from the HSE came “without documentation and without consultation with the union”.

“A request for a meeting with the HSE, was declined,” it added. 

The Executive Council of the INMO are to immediately engage with members with a view to a ballot for industrial action to “protect nursing and midwifery practice and patient safety”.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “This recruitment freeze represents a serious error on the part of the employer, and the impact on the provision of care is going to be disastrous.

“While we welcome all increases in bed capacity that have been made in the past year, increases in beds must mean increases in staffing.

“Anything other than this means our members are being set up for an unacceptable level of risk to their practice and their wellbeing,” she added.

Ní Sheaghdha added that the INMO have been attempting, for a number of months, to warn the HSE that the health service is “on track for a winter of severe overcrowding”.

The first of those warnings came today as Children’s Health Ireland warned of capacity issues in their hospitals as cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght Children’s hospitals have increased.

The news of the potential extension to the recruitment freeze has sent shockwaves through the entire health care system.

The Irish Medical Organisation, the Psychiatric Nurses Association and the service’s Joint Council – in charge of managing industrial relations – have all denounced the potential extension to the freeze today.

The HSE received funding to employ an additional 1,400 admin and managerial staff members this year however, the category was overemployed to a total of 1,650 new staff members.

The bloating of staff members in this category is evident when compared to the number of frontline staff members recruited during this time.

The workforce of admin staff has increased by over 30% since December 2019, compared to 23% and 18% in doctors and nurses, respectively.

The HSE has been asked to comment on the potential extension to the recruitment freeze.