Hospital network shake-up in doubt
NURSES are going to resist the plan by Health Minister James Reilly to relocate them around the country – in a move which threatens the shake-up of the hospital network.
The plan to reorganise the country's 49 hospitals is due to be brought to Cabinet this month.
It will lead to the shutting down of some 24-hour accident- and-emergency departments and the transfer of services to different locations. But it has been placed in jeopardy by the insistence of nurses that they will oppose the new relocation rules in the Croke Park deal.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said they would not accept its 40,000 members being "bludgeoned" into taking unacceptable transfers far from their homes.
Without the co-operation of the INMO, Dr Reilly will have to try to move nurses under protest or threaten them with dismissal – making it extremely difficult to implement his plan.
INMO deputy general secretary Dave Hughes said the plan was "pretty close to dictatorship", with nurses facing disciplinary action and the possible loss of their jobs if they refused to move.
"We don't find that acceptable at all, so we certainly will be campaigning against that element of it as well. We're in the eye of the storm," he added.
Dr Reilly is hugely dependent on the relocation of nurses and other medical staff for his hospital reorganisation plan to succeed. It has been billed as the most radical shake-up of hospital management structures for the past 80 years.
The changes on the cards, which will reduce the demand for nurses in certain hospitals, include:
• The reorganisation of the country's 49 hospitals into six separate regional groups, with services and staff being shared to achieve the most efficient results.
• The replacement of 24-hour accident-and-emergency dep-artments in Banty General Hospital in Cork and in Loughlinstown Hospital in Dublin with medical assessment units open from 8am to 8pm.
• The closure of one of the four hospital maternity units in Waterford, Wexford, St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny and South Tipperary Hospital in Clonmel.
The new Croke Park deal specifically states that the relocation of health staff such as nurses will be required for "the establishment of hospital group structures".
There will be a call for volunteers to move to new posts up to 45km away. But if there are not enough volunteers, it will be a case of, "last in, first out". And those who do not agree may be offered a "voluntary departure".
Mr Hughes said that the new rules on redeployment would make the lives of its mainly female nurses impossible because they would no longer be working close to their homes and families.