Friday 19 July 2019

Health service faces chaos on Wednesday as pay talks break down

  • Health service facing chaos as talks aimed at averting strike break down
  • Siptu to ramp up strikes by balloting staff at another 20 hospitals
  • Up to 10,000 hospital support staff will mount pickets during the 24 hour strike
  • Siptu staff claim they are due pay hikes worth between €1,500 and €3,000
(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Eilish O’Regan and Anne-Marie Walsh

The health service is facing chaos on Wednesday as talks aimed at averting a strike by 10,000 health staff broke down this afternoon.

The talks between SIPTU and health employers over a €20m pay demand have been underway for days.

They broke up this evening leaving thousands of waiting list patients facing cancellations of surgery and outpatient appointments.

The 10,000 staff include porters, chefs and healthcare assistants.

Negotiations were underway at the Workplace Relations Commission to halt a 24-hour stoppage by 10,000 hospital support staff.

Patients who are booked to stay overnight in hospital for surgery on Wednesday could be worst-hit unless discussions move towards a resolution soon.

Planned surgeries, appointments at outpatient clinics, catering for patients and diagnostic scope procedures could be affected by a strike as hospitals would be forced to wind down services.

Up to 10,000 hospital support staff will mount pickets during the 24 hour strike that will start at 8am on Wednesday

The Siptu staff claim they are due pay hikes worth between €1,500 and €3,000 due to increases due under a job evaluation scheme.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform wants the payment to be put on hold until 2021 when the current public sector pay deal runs out.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he believes the strike can be avoided and he appealed to all sides to return to talks.

Leaving the failed talks, Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell claimed the opportunity to resolve the dispute has been squandered.

He revealed that the government was offering €1.2m to resolve the dispute while Siptu insisted that €16.2m is owed to members.

Mr Bell said the hospital support staff will provide a limited amount of contingency cover on Wednesday to try and minimise the impact of the strike.

However, he said there will unfortunately be an impact at 38 hospitals and health agencies, while the union is preparing to ballot members at another 20 hospitals.

"Well, the outcome is that we’ve failed to reach agreement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the HSE and as such we will now resume our strike action on Wednesday," he said.

He said Siptu deferred two days of strikes to provide an opportunity to bring the two parties together.

"The gap between the government and ourselves is so wide that it’s actually difficult to see how the matter could be resolved without a really serious input from government," he said.

"We do believe that the opportunity to resolve the dispute has been squandered."

He also accused the department of attempting to dismantle the job evaluation process so the staff would not get their full entitlement to move to new pay scales.

"This is a very, very serious attack on our members," he said. "It’s one that cannot be tolerated."

He said the job evaluation scheme is in place since 2005 and has never faced a challenge like this before.

In a statement this evening, the HSE said it "regrets" the industrial action and said they are engaging on contingency planning with SIPTU at local hospital and healthcare facility level.

"As was the case last week, the industrial action is planned to take place at 38 hospitals and healthcare facilities, and will involve a significant number of staff who make an essential contribution to the effective running of our health services every day," the statement reads.

"The HSE has and will engage on contingency planning... This is to ensure minimum disruption to patient services, in so far as possible, and to ensure patient dignity and that essential daily care remains in place."

They confirmed that the services mostly impacted will include;

  • Deferral of some elective inpatient procedures
  • Significant cancellation of scope procedures
  • Reduced outpatient services
  • Reduced laboratory services for GPs
  • Reduced catering services for both patients and staff
  • Reduced operating theatre activity.

They said the services impacted will vary across the hospital sites. The HSE also confirmed that patients are being contacted by their local hospital or healthcare facility in the event that their scheduled procedure or service will be affected by the dispute.

"While every effort will be made to minimise impact on patients, industrial action involving these essential staff will have a significant impact on services," they added.

"We will keep the public informed of any developments that may affect patient services through the national and local media, our social media channels and hse.ie."

Please see the following list of hospitals where SIPTU members will take strike action on Wednesday:

Cork University Hospital

Cork University Maternity Hospital

Kerry University Hospital

Mallow General Hospital

South Infirmary Hospital Cork

South Tipperary General Hospital

Wexford General Hospital

St Lukes Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny

Mercy Hospital Cork

Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown

National Rehabilitation Hospital

Beaumont Hospital

St Ita’s Portrane

Mater Hospital

St James Hospital

St Vincent’s University Hospital

Tallaght Hospital

Our Lady’s Hospital Navan

Louth County Hospital

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda

Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin

Rotunda Hospital

Central Mental Hospital

Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar

Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore

Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

Naas General Hospital

Cavan General Hospital

Letterkenny University Hospital

Sligo General Hospital

Roscommon Hospital

Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe

Galway University Hospital

Merlin Park

Mayo University Hospital

UL Hospital Dooradoyle

UL Maternity Hospital

UL Orthopaedic Hospital Croom

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