Wednesday 14 November 2018

Minister forced to defend Taoiseach’s comments on nurses

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed was standing in for an absent Simon Harris at Health questions and faced down a number of criticisms.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

A Government minister has been forced to defend the Taoiseach’s comments on annual leave for medical staff.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed was representing the government during Leaders’ Questions and faced down a number of criticisms from across the House about his party leader.

During Leaders’ Questions on Tuesday, when asked by opposition leader Micheal Martin what plans the Government had for the forthcoming winter, Leo Varadkar referenced hospital overcrowding due to annual leave taken by staff.

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Opposition leader Micheal Martin what plans the Government had for the forthcoming winter (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We need to make sure, for the first time ever, that during that period the radiology departments and labs are open and working at full whack, that consultants are not on holidays in the first week of the year, particularly those who work in the emergency departments, and that nurses are not on leave in the first two weeks of January,” Mr Varadkar said.

Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane was first to reference the Taoiseach during Wednesday’s questions.

“Yesterday the Taoiseach let the mask slip again with the latest attack on doctors and nurses, in what was a vindictive attempt to shift blame for hospital overcrowding away from him, and the performance of this Government,” he said.

“Nurse and doctors’ leave is not the problem here, it is not the reason over one million people are waiting to see a consultant.”

Mr Cullinane added that blaming frontline staff showed “the true character of Taoiseach”, before asking what plan the Government had for hospital overcrowding, and what increased investment strategy had been put in place.

Mr Creed denied that the Taoiseach had laid blame with the staff, but rather the poor management of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

“I think, on the contrary, the Taoiseach’s comments yesterday are clear evidence the Government’s priority is to make sure we we deal with patients in an effective way,” he said.

“The Taoiseach’s comments are a clear recognition that critical staff are critical to resolving this issue and, far from denigrating them, the challenge the Taoiseach posed yesterday is to HSE management, and what we need is appropriate management of human resources.”

He added that the Government since 2014 has reversed cuts to bed capacity, but added: “It’s not like flicking a switch.”

Mr Cullinane replied that Mr Creed had not answered his question and reminded the minister that his Government had been in power since 2011.

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Labour leader Brendan Howlin also criticised the Taoiseach’s statements (Brian Lawless/PA)

Labour leader Brendan Howlin also criticised the Taoiseach’s statements on Tuesday.

“There may be scope to change rostering, but the Taoiseach should not blame staff, which he did, no matter what you say, for taking their annual entitlement to leave,” he said.

“If it’s a management issue, it should be addressed with trade unions and not abusing people in this House or in the public airwaves.

“If this Government is serious about using resources effectively, to take pressure off the Christmas period it makes sense to offer home care packages to those in acute beds and awaiting transfer home.”

The minister was also asked by People Before Profit TD Brid Smith if, as he supported the recent Google staff walkout in Dublin, he would also support nurses should they resolve to strike over pay and conditions.

Mr Creed replied: “I am of the view negotiation is key in an effort to avoid strike action.”

Press Association

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