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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 25 April, 2019
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'We're just run off our feet': Nearly 40,000 nurses and midwives begin second day of strike action

Meanwhile, the HSE has said that 50,000 patients will be affected this week.

1531 Nurses strike_90563471 INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha at St. James Hospital this morning. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

NEARLY 40,000 NURSES and midwives have commenced a second day of strike action in an ongoing dispute over pay and retention issues. 

Nursing staff across the country started picked lines outside hospitals and clinics this morning amid increased concerns about the effect continued industrial action is having on patients in need. 

Speaking at St James Hospital in Dublin this morning, INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha told striking nurses that “this dispute is fundamentally about the raw material you supply. Nurses and midwives are serious about fixing the health service.”

The INMO has confirmed that additional services were now being brought into today’s strike. A further strike day is planned this Thursday with three further strike days planned next week – 12, 13 and 14 February. Strikes were also announced over the weekend for 19 and 21 February.

Oliver Allen (34) works in the emergency department at St James Hospital in Dublin and is chairperson of the strike committee.

Nurses. St James Hospital nurse Oliver Allen Source: Cormac Fitzgerald

“We’re here today to highlight to government the staffing shortages that we have on wards and in specialist areas every day,” Allen told TheJournal.ie. “We need to end that crisis now. We need more staff on our wards.”

Our patients aren’t getting the care that they deserve because there’s not enough nurses on the wards to give them that extra care. We don’t have time to talk to patients. We’re just run off our feet. The only thing that’s going to solve that is pay.

Joanne Faye – a ward manager at St James’ – was also out on the picket line today calling for better pay and conditions. Faye has been working as a nurse since 2000. 

She qualified in 2003 and has worked in Australia, and says nursing in Ireland is in crisis. 

“The staffing levels on the wards are not adequate. We’re running on skeleton staff,” she told TheJournal.ie.

“Gone are the days of the manager in the office doing the duties she should be doing. We’re part of the numbers. We’re on the floor, we ‘re providing the best care we can for out patients.

When I go home I’m doing my office duties at home which is taking time away from my children which I should be spending with them because I’m having to do off-duty, I’m having to do stuff I can’t get done in work, I’m having to do that at home. 

Faye outlined what nurses needed:

We need pay parity, we need better staffing levels, we need the retention of staff.

Faye said she had lost five staff since December. 

“One’s gone to Saudi, one’s gone to Australia, and the others have returned home because the commute on top of getting out of work late was just too much for them,” she said. 

“They need to look at this, pay parity. We need adequate staffing levels. We’re in this profession because we love it, we want to provide safe holistic care for our patients and that’s why we’re here.

We’re given above and beyond ourselves but there’s only so much you can do before it takes its toll and people are tired. 

 Patients affected 

Meanwhile, the HSE has confirmed that in total 50,000 patients will be affected over the two days of strike action this week.

This includes the cancellation of 13,000 out-patient appointments and 2,000 in-patient surgeries per day, as well as routine community nursing operations being cancelled.  

Posted by on Thursday, 25 April 2019

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Last week, the number of services affected by the action was 82. Today the number will be 240. The INMO said that this was due mainly to respite services in intellectual disability and care of the elderly being included in the action. 

Spokespeople for advocacy groups for people with intellectual disabilities and for patients in general have expressed concern at the ongoing strike action and called on the government to work to resolve the issues as soon as possible. 

‘Massively disrespectful’ 

For now, there is little sign of a breakthrough after the INMO described an invitation from the government for nursing unions to engage in negotiations on issues other than pay as “massively disrespectful” and “cynical”.

In a joint statement released on Sunday, Health Minister Simon Harris and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said they “note with disappointment that further strike action by the INMO is going ahead [today] and Thursday”.

“The government has always listened to the concerns expressed by nurses in relation to working conditions and job satisfaction as well as the patient experience,” the statement noted.

It said that the ministers “continue to be willing to engage in talks on the range of workplace related issues other than pay to try to resolve the dispute”.

The INMO’s Ní Sheaghdha announced this morning that a rally will take place on Saturday at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin city centre at 12:30pm. 

“We’re inviting the public to join us,” Ní Sheaghdha told those gathered at St James. “We believe that it will be very well supported.

With reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald

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