Sunday 21 July 2019

Nurses on the frontline

Hubert Murphy joined the nurses on the picket line at Our Lady of Lourdes and found them in determined mood

Fighting for the rights of nurses and midwives, INMO members at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital
Fighting for the rights of nurses and midwives, INMO members at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital
Nurses on the picket line.

It's noon on a Wednesday morning, bright and breezy around Bothar Brugha and Hardman's Gardens, but there's a distinct chill in the air and it stays with you until you reach Crosslanes - then it explodes into a buoyant sea of determination and resilience.

There could have been a foot or two of snow, but you get the feeling that nothing would be getting in the way of the nurses at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

They are on the picket lines, hundreds of them, making their stand for equality. It's a noble stance and has been born from years of frustration.

But one feels this is different. If these nurses bring the same enthusiasm to this fight as they do to helping save lives and caring for people within the walls of Drogheda's biggest employer, then their voices will be heard - big time.

Yet, you get a sense that they don't want to be here, they'd rather be working on the frontline as they do on every single day. However, there comes a time when you must make that stand, simply out of necessity.

This debate is about a host of things, parity of pay just one. Fully qualified sections of the workforce want to be given the same basic pay as their counterparts in other professions. It's hard to argue with their reasoning.

When the playing field is not level, expect the consequences. Hospitals can't retain staff and can't recruit enough staff, it's a vicious circle and the nurses and midwives are in the eye of it.

If nothing else, the nurses of Drogheda got one simple message from the people of Drogheda last week - we support you.

Horns were blaring from passing cars and in a tea room, the buns and biscuits piled up.

Members of the public came in with snacks and treats, local restaurants donated food and the likes of the Windmill Stores handed out tea and coffee to thaw out freezing hands.

Local INMO reps Karen Clarke and Melissa Garvey watched on as the sea of support threatened to engulf the place.

'We have to thank the people of the area. They have given us so much support,' Karen stated.

While the fight today is for better pay, they know it's a stand for the future too.

They know what's happening. Nurses are trained to a high standard, better than many other industries, and are then off to places like the UK, Australia and the Middle East. A generation lost.

They know if they stay here, the pay is less and conditions can be testing to say the very, very least. As Karen remarked, ' we are at crisis point'.

The problem is not going away - a bit like the nurses fight - and until a solution is found, it's likely to just fester.

Yet, all over the world, nurses want to come home and provide the care people need in this country, but they need a reason.

The facts are striking, nurses, for the most part, are paid thousands of euro below other professions from the time they enter the workforce to the time they retire.

Add in costs for the likes of accommodation and that wage packet is squeezed even further.

There are 900 members of the profession in Our Lady of Lourdes and many of their stories are similiar.

Karen tells of one nurse who emigrated to Perth, but missed home too much and returned. But she simply couldn't continue to work in this country and returned to Australia as pay and conditions are superior.

'No-one wants to be standing at a gate,' Melissa states, but the nurses have waited patiently for years to have their review of working conditions and in the end, a key aspect - pay - was put to one side.

This Tuesday and Thursday and next week, the nurses will again take to the paths outside Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in their stance, not just for now, but for the future of nursing and the people it impacts so greatly on - the public.

As evidenced last week, they are one group Drogheda is backing to the hilt - they can be assured of that.

Drogheda Independent