Tuesday 26 March 2019

Under pressure nurses strike in Ross over pay

Nurses on strike outside New Haughton Hospital
Nurses on strike outside New Haughton Hospital
Maura Murphy, Noirin O’Toole, Bindu Aji and Saravenan Gobelswamy on strike outside New Haughton Hospital

David Looby

Nurses based in the New Houghton Hospital in New Ross have been protesting in the cold and rain over the complete lack of cover and the rising stress levels they face every day they arrive at work to care for patients.

Over 37,000 nurses belonging to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation who resumed their strike action on Thursday morning in a dispute over pay and staff shortages. It was the third day on the picket line and due to the shortage of staff only three at a time could protest on the footpath outside the hospital at any one time.

Nationally all outpatient, inpatient and day surgery appointments were cancelled, as were routine community nursing services and health centre nurse clinics.

As on Tuesday, the strike hit respite and rehabilitation units for the elderly or those with intellectual disability.

Helen Kehoe has been nursing since 1975 and she has never seen it as bad. 'We are paid below (our peers). Our staffing levels are so low we are having to pull in people from other countries.'

Joan Cahill qualified as a nurse in 1986. She said: 'It's more dire now due to the big shortage of nurses. The stress is huge. We are paid below physiotherapists and occupational therapists. We can't get young nurses to stay. We just lost a girl who was agency. She is gone to Australia where the conditions are much better. She had just qualified.'

All three agreed that if not for overtime and late night and weekend work, the wages would be far below those of their peers. 'You are taking your registration in your hands every day you go to work. We are under pressure to provide the service patients need. It's frustrating. We are moving very quickly (between patients). It's demanding. Any young nurse would have to be mad to stay here,' Joan said.

Helen said: 'I wouldn't be an Irish nurse. Before we had five or six temps who were in their fifties. They have retired so we've no back-up.'

The 15 nurses at the hospital have been taking turns protesting outside on Hospital Road where they were beeped several times by supportive passing drivers.

Saravanan Goplaswamy has been working at the hospital for a year. He said: 'The shortage of staff means the safety of patients is compromised.

'It's very bad and it's getting worse. It's very hard to get agency staff in New Ross as they want to be in a city, like Waterford. We are working the equivalent of two to three jobs.'

Joan, Helen and Saravanan say getting the 12 per cent pay rise will bring them up to what their peers are getting. Joan said: 'If there is a job and they weren't specifically assigned to anyone it's the nurses job.'

New Ross Standard