With up to a quarter of a million people potentially affected by the nurses' dispute, someone is “going to fall through the cracks”, patient advocate, Stephen McMahon has warned.
Mr McMahon, who is chairman and co-founder of the Irish Patients Association, said he was “gravely concerned” because of the number of people affected by the industrial dispute.
“The numbers are so high that I feel somebody, or a number of people, will fall through the cracks,” he said.
Mr McMahon said he had been contacted by a number of patients who had appointments or surgical procedure cancelled because of the dispute.
“They are very concerned at how the strike is impacting on them and living in hope, like me, that the dispute will be resolved soon.”
Mr McMahon said he did not think patients were angry at the nurses; they were just worried about when their appointments and operations would be rescheduled.
He referenced one particular case where a mother was very upset about her baby, who has a serious heart defect and needs an operation.
“She is concerned that the pre-op scans and evaluation may not happen next week because of the dispute.”
Mr McMahon said patients had to make plans when they had surgery and often relied on loved ones while they recovered.
“It is not always easy for some people to take time off work and many care plans have gone out the window because of the nurses' strike action.”
One woman, whose operation was cancelled, told him her husband had taken a week off work to take care of her after the procedure.
Mr McMahon said it was heart-breaking to see so many people suffer while the dispute dragged on. He said it was crucial that whoever was negotiating on the Government side had something to put on the table.
“You are not going to get past the starting line if the answer is always no, no no,” he said. “If the benchmarking is causing problems maybe it is time to revisit it – it has not been looked at for some time.
“Is it right that if someone gets a pay increase in one area of the public service because of extra work and responsibilities everybody should get a divvy from that?"
INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said she did not think there was a risk that public opinion could turn against nurses if there were three consecutive strike days next week
“I don't think so. I think the public is very adamant. They know why nurses and midwives are taking this action. They know it is because the public health service is understaffed; will not be there when they need it, particularly up to 2030 when we know our ageing population will have an even bigger need for the health service. It is simply not tenable to continue with the staffing levels that we have and make no provision.”
Meanwhile, the INMO and PNA will hold a national rally in Dublin today. It will be led by young nurses and midwives with suitcases who will ask the Government to give them a reason to stay in Ireland.
An INMO petition supporting nurses has been signed by over 68,000 people.