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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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Emergency department workers pin blame for hospital wildcat strikes on HSE

Navan emergency department was just one of many experiencing serious staff shortages as a result of the strikes this evening.

navan Our Lady's Hospital, Navan Source: Google Maps

AN UNOFFICIAL WORK stoppage on the part of agency medical workers with the HSE threatened to shut an emergency department in Co Meath this evening as locum staff at hospitals across the country went on wildcat strike.

It’s understood that a number of agency staff did not show up for work at Our Lady’s Hospital Navan today, and that the emergency department there came close to shutting due to a lack of necessary cover.

The unofficial actions on behalf of agency staff at hospitals around Ireland stems from a drive by the HSE to bring parity between the pay levels of its own medical workers and those on agency contracts.

That drive has manifested itself in a move to cut pay for agency workers.

Now, the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) has suggested that the party at fault for the strikes is the HSE, saying that the action is a “result of the implementation of a HSE directive intended to cap the pay of locum doctors” and has left a number of hospital emergency departments “very short of key medical staff”.

“Clearly, questions need to be asked as to why it is that such a high proportion of the medical workforce are employed as locums (temporary replacements for permanent workers) and, in particular, why so many local graduates choose to work as locums rather than take posts on standard contracts,” the IAEM said in a statement.

As long as regular contract posts are so unattractive there will be continue to be a shortfall in medical rosters in many of the country’s emergency departments. Allowing a situation to develop where regular medical employment is so unrewarding and unsatisfactory that so many choose this alternative is yet one more failing of those with political and managerial responsibility for the health service.

Navan’s general hospital has a particularly high proportion of non-HSE workers employed there.

Contingency

“The HSE has been advised that certain agency medical staff have indicated that they may not turn up for their rostered duty this week. There are well-established and agreed procedures to deal with this,” a spokesperson for the HSE earlier told TheJournal.ie.

The HSE would urge all staff to comply with these agreed procedures. These procedures are in place in the healthcare environment in order to ensure continuity of care to patients and clients.

The spokesperson said that the HSE is working with hospital groups to ensure “the continued delivery of care on a contingency basis”.

“Hospitals will continue to work with the contracted employment agencies to source staff and will continue to assess the position over the coming days,” they said.

Despite this, the situation at Navan Hospital appears to be on a knife-edge at present.

“Navan Hospital is particularly exposed due to the high proportion of agency doctors in our accident and emergency,” local Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín told TheJournal.ie.

“I am told that there is a significant threat that the A&E could be closed this evening,” he said, adding that he had heard from the HSE that the situation is “fluid”.

I am told that there are contingency plans being developed to try and keep the emergency department open but that the outcome of this is not certain.
Once a closure of a service occurs within the HSE there are real fears for it not reopening. I am calling on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to personally intervene and guarantee that Meath has a functioning emergency department tonight, tomorrow and into the future.

Read: ‘Ireland’s nursing crisis could be eclipsed if US nurses weren’t being denied access to work here’

Read: Simon Harris says he’s ‘very disappointed and frustrated’ at Finian McGraths’s vaccine comments

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