Sunday 25 August 2019

Nicola Anderson: 'No bite-back from the public as they throw their weight behind staff on picket line'

Determined: Health support worker Stacey Moody at St James’s Hospital. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Determined: Health support worker Stacey Moody at St James’s Hospital. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Outside the Rotunda Hospital, spirits were being kept aloft with picket line chants of 'Come on Paschal, don't be a rascal' with a chorus of supportive honking car horns.

The same scenes of determination were replicated outside hospital after hospital around the country.

For those awaiting services, it had a devastating impact with many procedures cancelled - but amongst those patients we spoke to there appeared to be few complaints.

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And there was much sympathy for hard-working staff.

Carrying her new baby daughter carefully out in her car seat was Priscilla Gaino, from Dublin, who had given birth the previous day at the Rotunda. She had no complaints about the conditions or the food as a result of the strike action. The hospital was spotless, she added.

"It's the best treatment here," declared her husband, Marcos.

"I don't think it's a good idea to be protesting in front of a hospital though, it's too noisy," he said, gesturing towards the tiny child, snugly asleep in her pink beanie hat.

At St James's Hospital, some patients were seizing the opportunity to stand in the sun-trap outside the main entrance and soak up some glorious afternoon weather.

"The only reason we're still out is because they're so short staffed," claimed one woman.

"We're allowed five minutes for a smoke and after that they have our mobile numbers and they'd be ringing us to see where we are - but they're run off their feet in there," she said.

"Not a day to be inside," observed one man who had also noticed that the nurses were working extra hard to make up for the deficit.

"That's her first break of the day," he said, pointing to a nurse off in the distance.

But he had not been put out by the strike, he said. There was a hot lunch as always.

"I got a bit of chicken," he added. He had all sympathies with the strikers.

"Those staff work very hard," he said.

Patient Terry Malone, from Dublin, echoed his words.

"The whole place is spotless and it's a hard old job. They're actual angels that are working here. I hope they get what they're looking for because it would save an awful lot of messing next week," he said.

He came in for treatment last week and said that by this stage in the day, he would have had his three full meals.

However, yesterday he only had breakfast followed by two pieces of brown bread for lunch and he was expecting his wife in later with "a sandwich or two".

Patient Nicola Gordon was satisfied with the food she had received. Breakfast was cornflakes and a cup of tea while lunch was mince, potatoes, peas and carrots.

"We had no tea though - we got a big bottle of water," she added.

At the Mater Hospital, many car horns were, again, honking in support of the picket.

On the picket was chef Ciaran Deighan, who has been working at the hospital for 14 years and enjoys the job greatly.

"For the past few years we've been short staffed - they can't get the staff because the job is so hard."

With two daughters, aged 12 and nine, money is a bit tight. The family go away camping in the summer "because it's a bit cheaper", he explained.

"All the cuts we've had along the way took a real hit on our wages.

"People don't think the catering staff are an important part of the hospital," he said. "And it's not as important as the doctors - but food is still part of the treatment."

Healthcare assistant Dominic Blunt, at the Mater, enjoys the rapport with patients "immensely".

"It's a job you have to like because it's very hands on," he said.

He believes it is a "disgrace" that the Government let the situation go as far as strike action. "You can't jeopardise a person's health because of politics," he said, adding: "It shouldn't come to that."

"We're the boots on the ground in the hospital and the Government is under the illusion that it can run the hospital without us, but it can't," said Mandy Vaughan, of the catering staff.

"There's a backbone in everything and we're the backbone of the hospitals."

Irish Independent

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