Over 37,000 nurses belonging to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation resumed their strike action this morning in a dispute over pay and staff shortages.
It is the third day on the picket line with no sign of a breakthrough in the escalating dispute. Once again, all outpatient, inpatient and day surgery appointments are cancelled, as are routine community nursing services and health centre nurse clinics.
As on Tuesday, the strike has hit respite and rehabilitation units for the elderly or those with intellectual disability. The number of hospital and community health service appointments cancelled as a result of the nurses' strike so far has reached nearly 80,000 according to new figures from the HSE powered by Rubicon Project
The HSE said that today, more than 27,000 appointments have been cancelled. The figure involves 2,000 planned procedures, 13,000 outpatient appointments and about 14,000 community appointments.
The first day of action resulted in 25,000 cancelled appointments, the second day affected 27,000 appointments and today's action has resulted in a similar number being affected bringing the total to 79,000 patients or health service clients.Three further consecutive strike days are scheduled for next week.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the union has received no new correspondence from the Government aimed at resolving the current dispute.
Speaking on the picket line at the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin, she said her 37,000 members were resolute - and had given a clear response to the Government's press statement last Monday offering to talk about anything except pay.
She said nurses and midwives on the picket line around the country understood that Ireland has now become a very uncompetitive area for the recruitment and retention of nurses in a global market where they are sought in every country.
Asked about HSE concerns about mounting risks in the health service due to the strikes, she said that nurses and midwives were highlighting the risk that exists in the health service every single day due to staff shortages.
She said two days of a dispute had lifted the lid on that. She said that all of a sudden, the HSE managers who are now working the 24-hour cycle with nurses recognise the risk.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said she did not believe that further strike action planned for next week would lead public opinion to turn against nurses, and defended contingency arrangements instituted for the industrial action.
She said the public understood why they were taking the action, and that the public health service is understaffed. She noted that the National Children's Hospital would need 300 additional nurses to open, but as there was absolutely no hope of attracting those numbers, they would have a hospital with closed beds.
She reiterated the INMO position that the nurses' demands could be met within the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement without triggering knock on claims.
Asked whether it was helpful that the Fórsa trade union had already notified its members that if any group got a special deal they would seek similar benefits, Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the bottom line was that as far as they were concerned there were unique circumstances in nursing - and where there had been unique circumstances in other grades, remedies had been found within PSSA restrictions.
More than 700 nurses are on the picket line at University Hospital Waterford, forcing the cancellation of 657 outpatient appointments and all elective surgery at the 433-bed hospital.
The Emergency Department continues to operate at the hospital, as does emergency orthopaedic and cancer surgery. Over 300 nurses are on strike in Letterkenny at the University Hospital and St Conals Hospital across the road from it.
Pickets have been placed at six hospitals throughout the Midwest region, with 783 outpatient appointments cancelled and over 100 day care procedures. The minor injury units usually available at Ennis and Nenagh hospitals have also been closed. Mental health services are also in the crossfire - after the Psychiatric Nurses Association escalated its overtime ban to run through the night.
The PNA says this highlights the unsustainable dependence on overtime and agency staff - and reinforces the argument for pay movement to address the recruitment and retention crisis in nursing. Mental health services are also in the crossfire - after the Psychiatric Nurses Association escalated its overtime ban to run through the night.
The PNA says this highlights the unsustainable dependence on overtime and agency staff - and reinforces the argument for pay movement to address the recruitment and retention crisis in nursing. The Health Service Executive says it has had continuous engagement with the PNA, and is working closely with it to try to address the issues that have arisen. It says that work is still ongoing. It added that it remains concerned about staffing levels, and that liaison with the PNA is continuing.
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