Sunday 18 August 2019

Roll-out of HPV vaccine for boys threatened by latest union row

Talks: Siptu health division rep Paul Bell arrives at the WRC. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Talks: Siptu health division rep Paul Bell arrives at the WRC. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A fresh industrial relations row in the HSE is threatening the roll-out of the life-saving HPV vaccine to schoolboys in September, it has emerged.

The vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer in women, is already given to schoolgirls and it is planned to be offered to boys from the next academic year.

Boys would benefit by reducing their risk of oral cancer. Including them in vaccination would also cut down on risk of transmission of the virus.

The Irish Medical Organisation, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and Fórsa are refusing to participate because of a lack of staff. The HSE said: "They are currently refusing to co-operate with the roll-out in September."

It is the latest dispute to hit the HSE, which returned to the Workplace Relations Commission yesterday for talks with Siptu over its €20m pay demand. The threat of strike action by 10,000 hospital support workers next Tuesday still looms if the parties fail to reach an agreement on pay rises of between €1,500 and €3,000 for a range of workers including porters, chefs and healthcare assistants.

The HSE is to engage in further talks with unions on staffing to administer the HPV vaccine to boys in the coming weeks. It said: "The group of unions has maintained that not enough staff are being allocated."

However, the HSE analysis is that both nursing and medical numbers have increased since HPV vaccination was introduced for girls.

Following the CervicalCheck scandal, the Government has put a high priority on HPV vaccination.

Meanwhile, the €50m pay deal over two years that settled the nurses' strike earlier this year after three days of health service chaos has still not been accepted by one of the unions. The Psychiatric Nurses Association was back in the Workplace Relations Commission this month over additional allowances as well as demands around historic pay relativity over general nurses. That looks set to push up the overall bill to settle the dispute even further.

The disputes are putting the Government's pay strategy under growing strain.

Newly recruited hospital consultants are also demanding an end to the 30pc pay gap compared with longer-serving hospital doctors.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said: "The Public Service Pay Agreement is in place, that is budgeted for. We need to protect the agreement, there is a wide variety of competing claims.

"There is an agreement in place that I am determined to protect."

Irish Independent

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