Tuesday 22 October 2019

Hospital support staff strike: Thousands of operations to be cancelled tomorrow

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Thousands of patients face the cancellation of surgery and other procedures tomorrow as up to 10,000 hospital support staff go on strike over pay.

There are also fears some hospitals will not be able to provide regular meals and hot food to patients as many catering staff take to the picket line.

The workers who will stage a 24-hour walkout include porters, healthcare assistants, chefs, laboratory and theatre staff.

Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday appealed to Siptu and health management to return to talks to avert the strike in 38 hospitals. He asked them to "double their efforts" to avoid the hugely disruptive industrial action.

The Siptu members are seeking pay increases of up to €3,000 which they say they are due following a job evaluation scheme.

The total cost of the pay rises adds up to about €20m.

Stock Image
Stock Image

Siptu strike committees met health management yesterday to draw up plans to ensure there is an emergency service and to minimise patient safety risks.

The HSE has not issued any contingency plans, but some hospitals, such as the Mater Hospital in Dublin, told patients they would be providing only core critical services.

Other services such as non-emergency surgery will have to be cancelled if the action goes ahead.

"If you have an appointment scheduled for a day where industrial action is planned, please be aware you may be contacted by the hospital as your appointment may be rescheduled. If the industrial action does not go ahead, the hospital will proceed with all planned procedures," said the Mater.

The HSE said contingency plans had been drawn up locally and they would be overseen nationally from the emergency management centre at St Mary's Hospital in Dublin.

"Patients will be contacted by their local hospital or healthcare facility in the event that a scheduled procedure or service will be affected by the dispute," it said.

Efforts to resolve the dispute failed on Monday at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Even if the talks resume today it is expected to be too late for many patients whose procedures and surgery have been cancelled.

Siptu official Paul Bell said it was a responsible trade union.

"We have tried to process this dispute in the normal way by trying to engage and trying to resolve and come to a conclusion," he said.

Siptu said workers in chef grades had co-operated with an independent review of their pay relationship with similar grades but their hopes of "achieving pay justice" had been dashed.

Further 24-hour stoppages are planned on June 25 and 26, with three more walk-outs due to be staged on July 2, 3 and 4.

If the strikes go ahead, they will leave another backlog of surgery and come on the back of the three-day nurses' strike earlier this year which left thousands of patients facing delays.

Siptu said: "Our members accepted the public service agreements since 2010. The Government must now honour its obligations."

Irish Independent

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