Nurses warn of nationwide action
Second stoppage over safety at busy hospital
STRIKING nurses have warned their industrial action could escalate nationwide if their concerns about patient safety are not addressed.
For the second time in a week, nurses from the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick staged a four-hour protest outside the busy hospital yesterday morning. Another work stoppage is planned for Tuesday.
Nurses claim the Health Service Executive (HSE) is not addressing their concerns about patient overcrowding in the accident and emergency department as a result of underfunding and understaffing.
They were joined by colleagues from Cork and Galway during yesterday's action.
SIPTU divisional head Paul Bell said nurses in other hospitals were under severe pressure and he refused to rule out industrial action elsewhere.
"The health service is in a state of emergency nationally and I wouldn't be surprised if this type of action spreads to other hospitals, especially those struggling every day to cope with patient demands like Drogheda, Waterford, Galway University and Roscommon," Mr Bell said.
He added that there were serious issues in the Mater and Tallaght hospitals in Dublin in relation to patients on trolleys and said conditions would get worse during the winter.
Meanwhile, a row erupted between the HSE in the south-east and hospital laundry workers over a staffing crisis.
The Unite union said the HSE recruitment embargo and poor management of staff leave had created a situation where the laundry department at Waterford Regional Hospital had left staff with an average of 15 days' leave not taken.
Staff are "not permitted to take leave because there is no money to pay agency staff for cover".
Unite has 2,000 healthcare members who are mostly employed in support service areas.
Unite regional officer Clive O'Regan yesterday warned: "Staff are being worked to the pin of their collar in providing patient care -- they are living in fear of losing their jobs if they take their leave.''
Mr O'Regan added: "The laundry department at Waterford Regional Hospital has 40 staff with an amassed annual leave entitlement of 4,700 hours. Any time staff book holidays to spend time with their own families or clear the backlog, they find it cancelled at the last minute, creating intolerable strain. We have continually raised this issue with management but they just stick their heads in the sand and carry on as before."
A spokesman for the HSE South East region last night said the executive "wishes to assure the public that patient care has not been compromised by difficulties ensuring the processing of laundry services at Waterford Regional Hospital".
Staff representatives had been assured that the accumulation of unplanned leave was one of the primary issues to be addressed as part of this process, said the spokesman.