Hospitals will have to cut services during nurses' two-hour A&E strike
Hospitals which are to be hit by the nurses' strike in A&E departments next Tuesday will have to dramatically scale down services in a bid to ensure patient safety.
The move is part of contingency plans which are being worked out between the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the HSE in advance of the two-hour stoppages beginning at 8am in seven hospitals.
Following the breakdown of talks between both sides, it now looks increasingly likely that the strikes will go ahead.
However, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said the door of the Workplace Relations Commission remains open for both sides to get back around the table and avert the action.
The INMO, which said it is protesting at ongoing overcrowding in A&E departments, claims 144 vacancies for nurses in 12 of the country's 26 A&E departments will remain vacant if greater incentives are not offered by public hospitals.
They pointed to the current packages being offered to lure nurses by some private hospitals, including Dublin's Mater private.
It is offering nurses from abroad up to €6,000. This involves a €3,000 gross signing -on bonus, half of it paid after the first month and the rest following six months, subject to the nurse agreeing to a minimum stay.
It also involves refunding the registration fee along with a flight to the value of €250. For nurses returning to Ireland, there is an accommodation allowance for their first month stay.
Nurses taking up jobs from Ireland get €3,000 under the same terms. The HSE's incentive package aimed at luring nurses back here from the UK is worth €1,500. A HSE spokeswoman said yesterday that since the UK campaign was launched during the summer, they have received around 400 applications to date but just 77 people have accepted job offers.
"The scheme remains open and further interviews are scheduled as interested applicants come on stream. It should be noted there is an international shortage of nurses," she said.
The minister indicated they may be willing to look again at incentives for newly recruited nurses but said they could not apply across the entire nursing workforce.
He also ruled out any pay increases, which he said would breach the Lansdowne Agreement.
He also insisted that private hospitals could not compete with the public sector in areas such as pensions and job security.
The hospitals to be hit by the rolling two-hour stoppages beginning at 8am are Beaumont and Tallaght in Dublin, University Hospital Galway, Waterford Hospital, Mercy Hospital in Cork, Cavan Hospital and Tullamore Hospital.
The strike will be confined to the A&E departments and nurses will continue to provide a standby service in the event of a major emergency.