SIPTU has predicted thousands of temporary health staff will lose their jobs as a result of the Government’s public service cutbacks.
At the union’s national nursing conference in Sligo, national nursing officer Louise O’Reilly told delegates that even though the temporary staff had demonstrated a commitment to the health service, nurses and midwives were “facing the dole queue or the airport” due to the reduction in service.
She said that in January 2009 there were 5,531 patients on trolleys, representing an increase of 20% on the previous January.
“There were 500 beds taken out of the system last year due to cutbacks and it is estimated that at any given time approximately 700 acute beds are unavailable due to delayed discharges caused by patients for whom suitable non-acute accommodation cannot be found.
“It is planned that a further 600 beds will be taken out of the system this year.
“If this is value for money in action I shudder to think what waste looks like.”
The union also claimed nursing staff were being made scapegoats for bankers and property speculators.
“The Government parties would do well to remember this when they called looking for votes in June,” said Ms O’Reilly. In reference to Eamon Gilmore, who attended the conference, she said: “Nurses and midwives are delivering quality care, but they need allies in defending the public health service. We will be looking for those allies in June and we will expect them to deliver for us.”
Ms O’Reilly also condemned the moratorium on recruitment in the health services as “a crude measure which shows a lack of creativity on the part of the Minister for Finance”.
“It seems to me that the Department of Finance is now running the health service so what do we need the Department of Health for?” she said.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Mary Harney yesterday presented the first cohort of eight nursing students in Ireland from the Royal College of Surgeons with higher diplomas in Nursing Sexual Assault Forensic Examination.
Following recommendations from the national steering committee on Violence Against Women on Sexual Assault Treatment Services, the Health Service Executive, in partnership with the college’s Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, developed the one-year course to prepare nurses and midwives for a new role in providing services to victims of sexual assault.
Prof Seamus Cowman, RCSI Head of Nursing, said: “The requirement for forensic nurse examiners in Ireland primarily arises from the deficiency that currently exists in providing appropriate and professional services to victims of sexual assault.”
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