Survey finds almost two-thirds of Irish people back nurses' strike

Nurse Deirdre McFadden and her 2-year-old daughter Ciara on the picket line at University Hospital Galway. Picture: Andy Newman

Latest: Up to 64% of Irish people are backing the nurses strike, according to an iReach survey.

The survey from iReach insights also found that 87% of people believe the Government could do more to recruit and retain nurses and midwives.

It also found that women are more supportive of the strike than men.

The survey found that 65% of the population believe it is unfair that nurses are paid less than their healthcare counterparts, such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

The survey heard from 1001 people between January 10 and 17.

Earlier: Taoiseach hits back at nurses' union after govt accused of 'cynical PR manoeuvres'

Some nurses would get pay increases of 40% next year if the government gave in to their demands.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform says their 12% pay claim, along with what is in the public sector agreement, means a newly qualified nurse's salary would rise from €29,000 to €40,000.

The INMO says its members will continue to strike until pay is addressed.

Up to 50,000 medical appointments have not gone ahead today, and hospitals are contacting patients to cancel procedures ahead of Thursday's planned industrial action.

General Secretary of the INMO, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, says pay increases will stop nurses from emigrating.

"This will require a review of their pay scales, the reason they are leaving is to get better pay abroad," said Ms Ní Sheaghdha.

"We are in a competitive market, we are building a children's hospital and we need a minimum of 300 children's nurses and the class that just graduated have told us that they're leaving.

"They are going to London."

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has hit back at nursing unions.

They described the offer by the government of further talks - as long as they were not about pay - as deeply cynical.

After complaints the unions were not contacted directly with the offer, Leo Varadkar said neither were the people missing appointments today.

"I appreciate that the nurses' union felt that the offer to engage in further talks at the WRC was discourteous as they heard it through a press release rather than through a letter or direct contact and we will make sure that doesn't reoccur," said Mr Varadkar.

"At the same time, we shouldn't forget that tens of thousands of people found out through the media that their respite was being cancelled this week too."

No admissions for respite care due to strike action, says HSE

By Vivienne Clarke

Update 1.30pm: The HSE’s interim national director of Community Operations, David Walsh, has revealed that no admissions for respite care were made this week because of the nurses strike.

He told RTÉ’s News at One that he had no exact figures of the numbers impacted, but that the lack of respite services would affect the elderly and young people with disabilities who required respite as part of their “package of support.”

Nurses take part in their second day of industrial action over pay and conditions at Naas General Hospital, in Co Kildare. Picture: Niall Carson/PA
Nurses take part in their second day of industrial action over pay and conditions at Naas General Hospital, in Co Kildare. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

The ongoing industrial action is going to have “a dramatic impact” on the level of support for older people and he said he is most concerned at the impact of the lack of public health nurse visits on the elderly and babies.

He warned that the situation is going to become even more difficult next week when three back-to-back days of industrial action are planned.

The dispute has meant it was not possible to move patients from acute hospital beds to public nursing homes, he explained.

If they can’t be discharged, this causes backlog.

Today’s industrial action meant the cancellation of 13,000 “contacts or appointments”, he said.

These appointments range from day care attendances, to child development checks to routine support for older people living at home.

It also means an impact on access to respite services “right across the range of services.”

The overtime ban by the Psychiatric Nurses Association is also “causing a significant amount of disruption,” he added.

Second day of strike by nurses sees Government under fire over pay

Update 12.30pm: The second day of industrial strikes by nurses and midwives caused considerable criticism of the Government from political opponents and the public.

Today’s strike began at 8am, with busy picket lines to be held until 4pm across the country.

They are striking over staff retention issues which they say is linked to unsatisfactory pay in the sector.

Nurses are calling for a pay increase of about 12%, but the Government has said it is not in the position to borrow money to fund pay increases.

The Government released a statement on the eve of the strike, noting “disappointment” in the action.

“The Government has always listened to the concerns expressed by nurses in relation to working conditions and job satisfaction as well as the patient experience,” the statement said.

“The Ministers continue to be willing to engage in talks on the range of workplace-related issues other than pay to try to resolve the dispute.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the Government’s press release was “spin masquerading as substance”.

General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “Government by press release is unfair and confusing to patients and insulting to nurses and midwives on the picket lines.

“Recycling broken promises is no way to build good-faith negotiations. The Government’s press release refers to non-pay issues which are already agreed since 2017.

“The INMO previously referred the Government to the Workplace Relations Commission to try and find a solution to this dispute, but the Government failed to engage or make any proposals.

“We have identified excessive costs and wastage in the HSE, which could be used to address the pay issues at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis. But the Government simply will not listen.”

Carol Murphy Haslam, a cancer survivor from Meath, whose 13 year-old daughter had her tonsillectomy in Temple Street Hospital cancelled on Tuesday due to the industrial action, says she is behind the nurses.

“As the operation would have required an overnight stay they wouldn’t have had the staff to look after her so they cancelled the procedure,” she said.

“When they rang me, I said ‘No problem’. I didn’t mind. They sent me a new appointment for four weeks’ time and had a little Post-it note on it saying ‘Thanks for understanding’, which I thought was so sweet.

“I have scans today myself to follow up on my cancer, and I feel awful passing the picket.

“It goes against everything I’ve been taught, but I have friends who are midwives and nurses – they told me to go.

“I know if I saw my oncology nurses on the picket, they would tell me they want me to get my scans.

“They do an amazing job, I think all unions should strike with them in solidarity.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone who doesn’t support them.

“My daughter understands, she’s autistic so we had her prepared for the operation, but I explained and said it has to happen, there would be no-one to look after her, but everything will be okay, and she understands.”

Fianna Fail’s health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly said it was “deeply cynical” to try to talk to nurses while ruling out pay increases.

“How much longer will be let go before this Government realises it’s obligation?,” Mr Donnelly said.

“We believe that an independent review is required to examine nurses pay and conditions.”

Likewise, independent TD Mattie McGrath said: “Simon Harris is fighting so many fires and disasters in his department that I am surprised he has not swapped his ministerial car for a fire engine.

“We have the nurses out in freezing weather practically begging the minister and his Government to listen to them, and all he can he come up with is patronising words about how vital they are.”

Further strikes will take place on February 19 and 21, in addition to action on February 5 and 7, and February 12-14.

- Press Association

Earlier: Rescheduling appointments after nurses' strike will be 'like Storm Emma', says HSE’s Liam Woods

By Vivienne Clarke

Update 11.45am: The HSE’s national director of acute operations, Liam Woods, is warning that hospitals are full and that the system is under increasing strain.

He told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that the escalation in the nurses dispute has stopped the flow of patients from hospitals into public nursing homes which means more patients remain in hospitals and that patients are having to remain in emergency departments.

Nurses on the picket line at Limerick Regional Hospital. Photo: Don Moloney
Nurses on the picket line at Limerick Regional Hospital. Photo: Don Moloney

“The system is busy, trolley numbers are high even if attendances are moderate.”

Mr Woods said that while there had been “a fair amount” of cooperation with the INMO in relation to emergencies, the HSE “would have preferred” if there was complete derogation in relation to cancer services.

Every effort will be made to “clear hospitals” tomorrow before Thursday’s third day of industrial action by the INMO.

In the meantime he called on the public not to attend emergency departments “unless absolutely necessary.”

He said he knew this was putting “an extra burden” on GP services.

The capacity to reschedule appointments will be challenged as the industrial dispute continues, he warned.

Day one was like Storm Emma, it is going to take longer to address this now.

Mr Woods said that 12,000 patients were today affected in respite and rehabilitation community services, 2,000 inpatient appointments were cancelled while a further 13,000 outpatient appointments were cancelled.

This “accumulated impact” was going to have an impact on services, he said.

Earlier: Consultant believes both sides need to move from 'entrenched' position in nurses' strike

By Vivienne Clarke

Update 10.50am: Emergency medicine consultant Dr Fergal Hickey says there is no evidence of the Government addressing the fundamental problems in the health service.

He warned that both sides in the nurses' strike will have to move from their “entrenched” position to negotiate an outcome.

Speaking on RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show, Dr Hickey predicted that there will be more problems within the service next week when planned INMO strikes go ahead three days in a row.

Nurses on the picket line at UCH Galway. Photograph: Hany Marzouk
Nurses on the picket line at UCH Galway. Photograph: Hany Marzouk

He said that during last week’s one day strike his emergency department in Sligo saw 66 patients, usually, they would see 100. Almost a third of those patients were admitted to the hospital which is higher than the usual rate of 25 per cent.

Those who did come to the emergency department were sick, but there were no catastrophic cases, he said. If there had been a major incident or life-threatening situation, he felt that nurses on the picket line would have “come in.”

He advised people not to visit emergency departments today unless seriously ill or it was a “limb-threatening situation.” If they can put off a visit until tomorrow he urged them to do so or to visit their GP. “It will be a judgment call.”

Dr Hickey warned that some people did not realise it was a 24-hour dispute and that normal service did not resume once the pickets were gone. “I hope people take advice.”

He said there are “perpetual problems” within the health service with people on trolleys. He pointed out that the University Limerick Hospital has a state of the art emergency department, but there were no beds in the main hospital for patients following treatment so the emergency department was effectively a “warehouse” for patients with nowhere else to go.

No substantial efforts are being made to resolve any of these issues. They are all adding up.

'Government has put us out in conditions you wouldn't put a dog in' - Cork nurse on picket line

By Kevin O'Neill and Evelyn Ring

Update 10.20am: A 37,000 strong cohort of nurses are back on the picket line this morning as the second day of industrial action by nursing staff nationally takes place.

They resumed strike action from 8am this morning.

Some 50,000 patient appointments have been cancelled as a result.

Despite heavy rain in Cork, dozens of members remained in positive spirits, resolute in their determination.

Dozens of passing motorists showed their support for the strike by beeping and waving and other members of the public arrived with coffee and cakes to aid the efforts.

Naomi O'Donovan, midwife in the Labour ward in CUMH, said spirits are high among the striking nurses.

"The government has put us out in conditions that you wouldn't put a dog in," she said.

Spirits are high. You can hear the beeping and the support and we are all sticking together.

"They have pushed us too far and we are pushing back. We are in it for the long haul and the government has underestimated us. The conditions we are working in is what scares us, not the threat of sanctions."

Meanwhile, nurses cheered and whistled when an ambulance and accompanying garda squad car sounded their horns in support when they took a seriously ill patient into St James' Hospital in Dublin.

Above the nurses, six cranes worked on the site of the crisis-hit national children's hospital and the nurses had to stand back out of the way when heavy trucks entered and left.

It was day-two of the nurses' strike and general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghda, who joined the picket line, said there is "no settlement in sight."

What is going to solve this dispute is "a real look" at nurses' and midwives salaries, she said.

"The picketers here and picketers I have met already this morning and on Wednesday are very clear; this will require a review of their pay scales."

The INMO has already announced two new strike dates at the weekend, in addition to six previously announced.

Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe nurses dispute proposal 'paltry and tokenistic', says Alan Kelly

By Vivienne Clarke

Update 8.40am: “Paltry and tokenistic” is how Labour’s health spokesperson Alan Kelly has described proposals by Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe for new talks on resolving the nurses dispute which should focus on issues relating to staffing levels and working conditions but not pay.

He told Newstalk Breakfast that the offer was in fact “kind of insulting” and that be believed there would be a compromise eventually and that both sides should “sit at the table and talk.”

A group taking part in the INMO strike outside the Mercy University Hospital, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
A group taking part in the INMO strike outside the Mercy University Hospital, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

Mr Kelly said he believed there will be compromise eventually and he asked why the Government could not come up with a solution now without putting the public through a long strike and hardship.

He denied that if Labour were in Government the situation would be the same, “fiscally we didn’t have the same space, there is more elasticity now. If we were in Government we wouldn’t have gotten to this place.”

The Tipperary TD said he had family members who are nurses and had talked with nurses on the picket line.

He said he had been struck by the “huge age gap” with very few in the age group 30-40. Most of these were working elsewhere in the world, he said.

“I stand in full solidarity with the nurses.

There is a whole range of issues that could be introduced to reduce agency costs and recruitment costs which would mean more money for nurses pay.

He called on Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe to be honest with nurses, to sit down and engage with them.

They had been “asleep at the wheel” when it came to the over run at the national children’s hospital and they needed to ensure that they engaged with nurses.

Nurses Cara Gallagher and Lisa Carroll on the picket line outside the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Nurses Cara Gallagher and Lisa Carroll on the picket line outside the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Earlier: Up to 50,000 appointments cancelled over nurses’ action

By Conall Ó Fátharta

Update 6.30am: As many as 50,000 outpatient and community medical appointments will be cancelled today as nursing unions plan a major escalation in their industrial action.

Today’s strike by around 37,000 members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is the union’s second day of strike action and comes soon after it announced a major escalation of its industrial action over pay and staffing levels.

The HSE confirmed yesterday that some 50,000 people would see their appointments in hospital and community services cancelled as a result of today’s industrial action.

Picture: Ray Ryan
Picture: Ray Ryan

In a briefing yesterday, it said that emergency departments will be open, but with reduced staffing, and that the public should expect delays. It also advised people only to attend in the case of a medical emergency.

All outpatient services will be cancelled today, affecting approximately 13,000 patients. All in-patient and day surgery appointments are also cancelled, which will affect some 2,000 patients. 

A small number of urgent and complex cases will go ahead and those patients have been contacted directly.

Minor injury units will be closed, while GP services, which are the first port of call for most patients, will operate as normal. Maternity services will also operate as normal.

In terms of community care, all routine community nursing services and health centre nurse clinics are cancelled. Nurse-led public day centres and day hospitals for older people and people with disabilities are closed.

All planned admissions to public community nursing units, including respite and rehabilitation, are cancelled. 

All planned admissions to respite services for people with an intellectual disability have been cancelled.

At the weekend, the INMO announced an escalation and additional dates for the nurses and midwives strikes in the face of what it claims is the Government’s refusal to meaningfully engage with the union.

The executive council of the union announced extra strike days on February 19 and 21, in addition to the already-announced strike today and four more on February 7, 12, 13 and 14.

The number of services on strike this week will also increase from 82 to 240. The INMO said that it will also be organising a national rally at Dublin’s Garden Of Remembrance on February 9.

The first strike in the dispute took place on 30 January — just the second time that the INMO has gone on national strike in a century.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) has announced that it will escalate its strike action also. 

Its officer board met yesterday and agreed that the planned overtime ban to take place today, Wednesday and Thursday will be escalated on Wednesday and Thursday to a full 24-hour ban to include overnight rosters.

Today’s ban will remain as a daytime overtime ban. The action will apply to adult mental health services.

PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said this week’s action by psychiatric nurses was going ahead in the absence of any meaningful engagement or proposals from the Government to address the current recruitment and retention crisis in nursing.

“The extension of the overtime ban to overnight on Wednesday and Thursday will, unfortunately, show the reliance of mental health services on overtime, despite the repeated assurances from [the] Government that there is no substantive issue with understaffing and recruitment and retention in mental health nursing,” he stated.

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