Tuesday 16 July 2019

HSE warns of 'significant impact' on patient services as 10,000 staff in hospitals prepare to strike

Cork University Hospital is one of those that will be affected by the strike
Cork University Hospital is one of those that will be affected by the strike

Eilish O’Regan

THE threatened 24-hour strike by 10,000 support workers will significantly impact patient services, the HSE has warned. It said while efforts to avoid industrial action were continuing, it had started contingency planning with Siptu.

“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," said the HSE.

“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.

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

"The HSE remains committed to early resolution of the strike action, given the number of staffing groups involved and the direct impact on our patients in our acute and community services.

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

READ MORE: Patients facing hospital chaos as talks to avert strike collapse

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

Minister for Health Simon Harris today appealed to both sides to get back to talks.

Talks collapsed at the Workplace Relations Commission yesterday.

The strike will involve workers including porters, chefs healthcare assistants, and laboratory staff.

The staff are demanding that the government pay wage hikes that they say are outstanding following a previous job-evaluation scheme.

Among the hospitals affected if the stoppage goes ahead are Cork University Hospital, Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Beaumont Hospital, the Mater and St James Hospital.

Siptu said it was time for the Minister for Health and the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, to step in and resolve the dispute.

Siptu industrial relations executive Paul Bell said the job-evaluation scheme at the centre of the dispute had identified that the skill level for support staff had increased significantly over a nine-year period.

He said both the Department of Health and the HSE had accepted the findings of the job evaluations, entitling members to pay rises of up to €3,000.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil there is still time to avoid Thursday’s strike if unions agree to engage with the Labour Court.

Mr Varadkar said that as a former doctor he understood the value of the work done by hospital assistants.

“Hospitals don’t function without these essential support staff. We want to make sure that they are paid adequately,” he said.

But the Taoiseach said there are different interpretations of the job evaluation report.

“The Government and HSE is willing for this matter to go to the Labour Court. I believe that is the best way forward,” he said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed there has been “a lot of foot-dragging”

He said some hospitals are “already considering the abandonment of elective admissions” on Thursday.

Mr Martin said the Government needed to “send a signal” that it was willing to pay the staff because the Department of Public Expenditure “has proved to be the major stumbling block”.

He hit out at Health Minister Simon Harris, saying: “It’s grand for the minister to engage in a whole range of areas like botox and so on but when it comes to the hard decisions he’s nowhere to be seen.”

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