A&E strike called off too late to reschedule scores of cancelled operations
A series of two-hour nurses' strikes across seven hospitals due to take place today were postponed after late-night talks.
The nurses were planning to walk out of A&Es in a series of rolling strikes from 8am.
However the action was deferred to January 12 after last-ditch talks between the HSE and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), whose members will ballot on a new set of proposals.
The late-night decision to hold industrial action in hospitals has hit patients on waiting lists for non-emergency surgery.
The threatened action led to the cancellation of scores of operations for waiting list patients who were caught up in the row.
Hospitals had contacted the patients in recent days, many of whom have already been on long waiting lists, in order to tell them their procedures could not go ahead as a result of the action.
Consultants also carried out additional ward rounds yesterday to discharge patients where appropriate in advance of the stoppages.
The hospitals earmarked for strikes in emergency departments were Beaumont and Tallaght in Dublin, Waterford, Tullamore, Cavan, Mercy Hospital in Cork, and Galway.
The planned strike action, scheduled for January 12 and 26, 2016, remain in place.
The proposals members will be asked to consider focus on health and safety, recruitment and retention, and minimising ED overcrowding, lengthy waits on trolleys and avoiding extra beds/trolleys on inpatient wards.
The proposals also provide for an independently chaired process, to report by December 22, on the outstanding issues facing undergraduate and newly graduated nurses in relation to pay and incremental credit.
"There has been a significant number of offers put on the table so it is a big decision to make," an INMO source told the Irish Independent last night.
"So this decision is up to members to make sense why it is postponed.
"There will be a ballot now amongst members to see if there is enough being offered."
The last-ditch talks were underway at the Workplace Relations Commission between the HSE and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) throughout the evening to negotiate a deal which the union insists is necessary to recruit and retain nurses.
Key demands of the union are the filling of vacant CNM1 nurse positions.
A CNM1 is the first promotional grade in nursing.
There are 10 of these positions in St James's Hospital in Dublin and only four across the other 25 emergency departments as a result of the moratorium, they insisted.
The union argued that restoration of these positions may help in retaining nurses.
The union also wants the restoration of incremental credit for graduate recruits and fourth-year student pay.
A spokesman said this was a specific part of the Lansdowne Road Agreement, which required discussions to be completed within three months of it being agreed.
The nurses said the HSE originally reached agreement on this in early October but the funding was over-ruled by the Department of Public Expenditure.
The two sides last night were also trying to broker two extra days' leave for A&E nurses next year in recognition of their difficulty taking breaks due to overcrowding.
The union was also looking for up-front cash incentives to encourage nurses to apply for jobs.
These incentives include an educational bursary for new entrants, worth €1,500 and payable after 12 months in employment.
They would receive the cash in return for agreeing to stay in the post for a certain length of time.
Hospital consultants were yesterday carrying out additional ward rounds to discharge patients where appropriate in advance of the stoppages.