Concerns rise over clashes of nursing strike with freezing weather
SAFETY fears have heightened for patients who are being told to stay away from hospital A&E departments during the nurses’ strike as the country endures sub-zero temperatures and snow.
A HSE spokeswoman said yesterday in advance of Wednesday's 24-hour walk-out: "Due to the industrial action, we would advise that patients only attend our emergency services if absolutely essential."
However, the strike is due to clash with some of the most bitter weather the country has endured this winter - posing a risk to patients with respiratory diseases and people vulnerable to heart attacks.
The strike by more than 35,000 nurses will also hit pregnant women whose outpatient appointments are being cancelled.
If they experience problems with their pregnancy on Wednesday they will have to queue in the A&E of their maternity hospital.
Phil Ní Sheaghdha, head of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), held contingency plan talks with strike committees across the country yesterday.
It comes as more chaos looms today when the executive of the National Ambulance Representative Association meets and is expected to sanction a series of strikes.
It follows last week's action over the right to union representation which forced Army paramedics to be drafted in.
Members of the INMO, which is seeking a pay rise for staff nurses which employers say would cost €300m, will withdraw their labour on Wednesday except for emergency cover.
A spokesperson for the HSE confirmed that all local injury units will be shut.
Cancer surgery will go ahead but no other planned operations will take place. All outpatient appointments will be cancelled. Medical abortions will be confined to women who may go over the 12-week time limit if they are delayed.
In the community, all day centres for older people or people with disabilities, where nurses are employed, will close as will all routine community nursing services and health centre clinics where nurses participate.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Simon Harris said he is urging both sides of use "the time and mechanisms available to avoid this dispute".
A wage rise is ruled out but there is speculation a commission to examine nurses' pay may be brought forward.
Services not available on the day of the strike;
- Local injury units will not operate
- Planned inpatient surgery will be cancelled, except for cancer surgery. Inpatient is when you need to stay in hospital for one night or more.
- Planned day case procedures will be cancelled. Day case is when you are given a hospital bed or a trolley but will not stay overnight.
- All outpatient appointments are cancelled. This includes adult, maternity and paediatric appointments. Outpatient is when you go to hospital for an appointment but don't stay overnight.
- If a pregnant woman needs urgent assessment due to the cancellation of an appointment, she should go to the emergency admission room
- All day centres operated by the HSE and specified agencies where nurses are employed will close (people affected will be notified)
- All routine community nursing services and health centre clinics where nurses participate will be cancelled
- All day hospitals or outpatient appointments in community nursing hospitals or units will be cancelled
Services that are operating on the day of the strike;
- Emergency departments (adult and children) - attend emergency services if absolutely essential
- Urgent cancer surgery - you will be contacted directly by hospitals about your surgery
- Maternity services (Delivery suites, home births, special care baby units, neonatal)
- Colposcopy services
- Oncology services (chemotherapy and radiotherapy)
- Planned obstetric procedures (based on clinical need)
- Planned essential services delivered at home
- Residential care of older people and people with intellectual disability in centres operated by the HSE and specified agencies
- Palliative care
- Limited newborn screening will be available