Thursday 19 September 2019

Kathleen Lynch: 'Nurses have never entirely deserted service even in strikes'

Minister Kathleen Lynch, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health
Minister Kathleen Lynch, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health

Caroline Crawford

Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch has said contingency plans will be put in place in the event of a nurses strike but stressed that in her experience nurses had never "entirely deserted" the service.

The Minister was speaking after the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) opted to hold a ballot on industrial action for all members working in Emergency Departments. 

Ms Lynch said she understands the concerns of nurses and hoped the recovering economy would now allow for greater recruitment. She stressed that the problem of staff shortages within nursing was never in doubt but said the government was working to fill additional spaces.

"I must admit that I feel that nurses work very, very hard, especially when it comes to A&E departments where most of the time they are in a crisis situation. And you can understand when they find themselves in a position that they are worried about their own position and equally worried about patient safety.

"So, I would hope with the country recovering, I wouldn't say fully recovered but recovering, that we will be able to do more in terms of staff. The recruitment process is getting a little bit easier, it's not as if we ever denied that there wasn't a shortage, we knew there was," she added.

Speaking at NUI, Galway at the launch of an initiative on students mental health, Ms Lynch said she hoped the mechanisms of the industrial relations process could now kick in. She called for an arrangement that would allow nurses to deliver the service "with a sense of confidence and a degree of comfort".

Commenting on contingency plans in the event of strike action, Ms Lynch said she had found that nurses had never "entirely deserted" the service.

"What I have found down through the years, is when nurses go on strike it is always a last resort and that they always put in place contingency plans themselves because they are always very conscious that they are front line in terms of delivering a service. So of course the Department of Health always has to think about worst case scenario but it's very seldom that nurses leave the service entirely deserted," she added.

The executive council of the INMO decided to seek a mandate from its emergency department members, for collective action, up to and including a withdrawal of labour. It relates to ongoing concerns about overcrowding in Emergency Departments around the country.

The ballot will start next week.

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