2,500 face hospital chaos as workers plan strike
UP TO 2,500 patients -- including people in need of open-heart surgery - are facing cancellations from next week as staff in Dublin's Mater Private go on all-out strike.
Only emergency surgery is expected to go ahead. Already, a patient who was scheduled for open-heart surgery this week has had the operation cancelled because their post-operative care could be jeopardised if there are not enough staff in the hospital next week.
Staff in SIPTU and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation are to strike from Monday in protest at pay cuts of between 4pc and 5pc.
The hospital's chief executive, Fergus Clancy, said the Mater Private had already started informing its patients of cancellations and that all non-emergency surgery would not now go ahead.
Around 2,500 patients who have surgery, day-case procedures or outpatient appointments are normally seen in the hospital each week.
Mr Clancy said he hoped that agreement could be reached with unions to allow the hospital proceed with cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Among the patients attending the hospital for cancer treatment is Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.
The hospital will be particularly affected by the strike because it accepts acutely ill patients. Mr Clancy said he hoped that emergency cases could still be cared for.
However, many out-patient clinics will also have to be cancelled and consultants who rent suites in the hospital will have their services curtailed.
Talks are under way between the hospital and unions in an attempt to agree the level of emergency cover that will be in place from next Monday.
Mr Clancy said he had asked unions to refer the issue to the Labour Relations Commission but they refused.
In a recent letter to staff, Mr Clancy said the hospital needed to make adjustments or it would cease to remain competitive.
He also said the hospital was also carrying a considerable amount of debt and that the cost of servicing it in the coming years would increase.
Mr Clancy argued that the hospital had a contractual agreement with staff to honour national pay scales and it was not breaking that agreement.
It is estimated that around half the workforce in the hospital are not in a trade union and it remains to be seen what stance they will take if pickets are placed next Monday.