Wednesday 16 October 2019

Army called in 12 times so far during paramedic strike

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Stock picture

Eilish O’Regan

THE Army has been called on to provide ambulance services on 12 occasions so far during the two-day strike by 500 paramedics.

The strike which began yesterday morning by members of NASRA, which is affiliated to the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) , is part of a long running campaign for union recognition.

The HSE confirmed today the National Ambulance Service (NAS) is currently “managing the situation”  despite the challenges being experienced.

The army which is on standby was called out nine times yesterday and on three occasions so far today.

A spokeswoman said :”The robust contingency plan as devised and agreed is being implemented nationally.  Senior management within the NAS are continuing to monitor the situation right across the country.

“Their focus is the delivery of a safe service for the public and while the volume of calls to date is as anticipated, the ability to respond has been maintained to date.  We are continuing to seek to ensure that service and care delivery are  not compromised.

“The NAS received a total of 231 calls this morning between 7am and 12noon with three of these responded to through the agreement the HSE has with the Department of Defence to allow for the employment of army ambulance vehicles and personnel. “

While the air ambulance service remains available, there have been no calls to date requiring helicopter assistance to date.

“The NAS received a total of 632 calls  on Thursday between 7am and 5pm, with nine of these responded to through the agreement the HSE has with the Department of Defence to allow for the employment of army ambulance vehicles and personnel.

While the air ambulance service was available, there were no calls requiring helicopter assistance yesterday between the hours of 7am and 5pm.

Peter Hughes , PNA General Secretary said  ambulance personnel members of  PNA voted overwhelmingly in September  2018 for industrial action in pursuance of their  basic demand  to join, and be represented by, the union of their choice.

“To date the HSE has made absolutely no effort to address or resolve this dispute, and have now forced professional and highly trained ambulance personnel across the country into the unprecedented position of mounting a two-day strike.  

‘The HSE have chosen to ignore repeated offers by PNA to attend WRC talks on this dispute. HSE have further ignored the calls by Minister for Health, Simon Harris and many other Dail Deputies to resolve this dispute through negotiation rather than confrontation.

“Instead, the HSE has chosen to inflame the situation by refusing to recognise the right of ambulance personnel to be members of a branch of the PNA despite the fact that PNA ambulance branch represents more members by far than at least one of the two unions recognised by the HSE for frontline paramedics.”

The HSE advised the public that in an emergency situation they should call 112/999 as normal and the National Ambulance Service will respond.

“We would re iterate that the National Ambulance Service  is committed to maintaining positive industrial relations with all staff.  Ambulance personnel are well represented through agreed industrial relations processes.  The National Ambulance Service recognises SIPTU, UNITE and FORSA for staff in the service. In particular SIPTU is the recognised trade union for front-line staff. “

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