AFTER four days of protracted debate in the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), the battle between the HSE and psychiatric nurses last night came down to just one issue — money.
Unfortunately for psychiatric patients nationwide, the battle over the amount of compensation nurses should be entitled to if injured at work looked last night as if it might be insurmountable. If that is the case, the overtime ban currently in place in mental health facilities nationwide could be ramped up within hours meaning even more services will be curtailed.
The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and SIPTU have secured a number of compromises from the HSE during the talks at the LRC which started last Friday.
In advance, they had claimed the spectrum of injuries covered by the Government’s new compensation scheme was far too narrow. Now they have received assurances it will be expanded.
They have also won their battle to have psychological trauma covered by the scheme and believe the HSE will accede to their demands for historical cases to be taken into account.
However, there has been little success in agreeing sufficient remuneration for those injured at work.
According to the PNA and SIPTU, the levels of money which the HSE had proposed are as low as 12% of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) redress scheme.
“We cannot live with that,” said Des Kavanagh of the PNA. “We will continue to talk. They were always going to start off low.”
As talks were adjourned for the night Mr Kavanagh said they will reconvene this morning.
However, he said there would have to be a deadline for agreement of lunchtime today.
“Delegates are coming to the union’s executive meeting at 2.30pm from all over the country.
“They will have to have before them a final document addressing all parts of our claim.
“In the absence of such a document or if that document is unsatisfactory then the only alternative will be to escalate the action.”
An escalation would mean an end to all coverage by community service nurses in acute facilities and could effectively draw mental health services nationwide to a halt.
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