Psychiatric nurses in Galway could hold strike action within weeks after HSE talks break down
PSYCHIATRIC nurses in Galway could hold strike action within weeks after talks with the HSE broke down.
Last night PNA nurses in Galway voted unanimously to ballot for industrial action.
The action relates to a decision by 10 nurses not to take up work in the acute psychiatric unit at Galway University Hospital last week over health and safety concerns.
The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) held talks with the HSE before the Labour Relations Commission on Tuesday in hopes of resolving the matter.
However, despite making progress on staffing numbers, the talks broke down completely after it emerged the HSE planned to sanction staff who failed to work.
Peter Hughes of the PNA hit out at the HSE action as “disingenous”.
“This came out of the blue at the end of a three and a half hour meeting. We were making progress and we had entered the talks in good faith but we weren’t going to allow our members face sanction for highlighting serious health and safety concerns,” he said.
Staff met last night to discuss possible industrial action. Mr Hughes said he believed staff had been left with no option but to threaten strike action.
“I can’t see any alternative to be honest. We engaged in good faith with them and we’ve been flagging concerns about this issue since before Christmas but nothing has changed,” he said.
Mr Hughes said balloting for industrial action could begin as early as today with any possible action taking place within three weeks.
Ten members of staff at the acute unit at Galway University Hospital had refused to take up their duties for for over five hours last week when it materialised the unit would be under-staffed.
Staff had claimed they have been left short-staffed at the acute psychiatric unit of the hospital on a number of occasions over the past months with assaults in the unit escalating as a result. They claim there have been 36 assaults on staff since January.
A spokesperson for the HSE said it regrets the view of the PNA regarding the hearing, insisting the incident of staff failing to take up work could not be ignored.
“The HSE was in a position to substantially address concerns regarding nurse staff numbers. However the PNA seem to be of the view that last week’s failure by a number of staff to go on duty is something that can simply be ignored,” it said.
Commenting on the latest developments, Bernard Gloster, Interim Chief Officer for HSE West, said, “We can never have a situation where staff who are paid to care for patients simply refuse to go onto the ward without a minutes’ notice”.
He said the HSE hoped to give a further detailed submission to the LRC in the coming days.
Currently the approved compliment is 56 nurses. The HSE proposes subject to agreement to make another seven positions available.