Nurses demand talks on health 'crisis'
A union representing 40,000 nurses has demanded a national summit on the "crisis" in the health service within four weeks.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) claims that patient care is severely compromised and faces further threats due to €600m in cuts planned for next year.
It wants Health Minister Mary Harney and the incoming head of the HSE, Cathal Magee, to attend a summit to agree a coordinated and "safe" approach to the budgetary problems.
It came as the threat of 1,000 workers being axed in the health service in the west dominated a meeting yesterday.
Public-sector unions SIPTU, IMPACT and the INMO said fears for fixed-term contract jobs and the "meltdown" in services due to severe cutbacks were raised at talks with HSE officials.
SIPTU has threatened to ballot for industrial action after the health employer revealed it must slash costs in the region or run up a €90m deficit this year.
And the INMO yesterday accused the health employer of failing to provide extra staff to introduce the HPV cervical cancer vaccine for teenage girls next month.
The unions were meeting with HSE officials to discuss implementing the Croke Park deal in relation to cost containment plans.
The INMO, which rejected the Croke Park deal, accused Ms Harney of refusing to respond to an alternative proposal it put forward for the health service.
It said its plan would protect frontline services but cut costs by finding alternative uses for small- and medium-sized hospitals and more effective use of diagnostic and other services.
The union said it carried out a national review of services that found:
- More than 1,500 beds are closed in public hospitals, including beds in centres of excellence.
- There were over 300 people on trolleys in overcrowded A&E departments waiting for a bed on nine days last month, compared to one in July last year.
- Cuts in primary care and intellectual disability services.
- Patient care was compromised due to non-replacement of nurses, midwives and support grades.
However, the HSE denied claims that cutbacks meant patient safety was being compromised. A spokeswoman said: "Patient safety is always the primary concern in any decisions being considered."