Nurses and health managers seek to avert planned strike

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation along with health service management will today enter last-ditch talks aimed at averting Thursday’s two-hour rolling stoppages by nurses, in seven of the country’s busiest emergency departments.

The sides have again been invited to talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). Earlier this week INMO members rejected WRC-brokered proposals designed to address overcrowding, staffing and patient safety issues in ED departments.

Those included measures to boost nursing numbers in emergency departments and address overcrowding in hospitals. In rejecting the WRC proposal, nurses said they had no confidence in local management to deliver, on a 24/7 basis, the required changes to improve the environment for both patients and staff.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Joan Burton said she hopes the time taken to solve the hospital emergency department crisis “wouldn’t be anything like five years” and said “significant additional resources” have been made available to hospitals.

She made her comments after her cabinet colleague, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, said it would need five years of investment in the health system to “restore the capacity taken out of our hospitals” by the last government. Ms Burton said: “What we have seen over the last year, partly based on the economic recovery, is a very significant increase in the allocation of funding to the health services.

That has allowed us to employ hundreds of extra nurses and doctors within the health service, a lot of them being assigned to the frontline. I have to say I hope it wouldn’t be anything like five years in terms of the ED and I do hope that in terms of the discussions that are ongoing at the moment between the parties, between the HSE and the unions, that it is possible to identify the best and the most efficient way in which to organise ED and use the resources and the significant additional resources made available.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation has begun a ballot for industrial action among non- consultant hospital doctors in University Hospital Limerick. The ballot is over, what the union describes, as the refusal of hospital management to pay overtime to junior doctors.

Eric Young, the IMO’s assistant director of industrial relations, said the doctors in question are earning €31,000 per year and often work extra hours to deal with patients when covering clinics and theatres. UL Hospitals Group said it is “actively engaged in resolving this matter and expects all outstanding overtime payments will be made this month”.

“UL Hospitals Group is pleased to confirm that with the exception of a small number of individuals, all of the claims for unrostered overtime have been processed and staff will be paid next week. Once the remainder of claim forms have been completed, these will be processed and all staff paid by the end of the month.” However, the IMO said assurances had been given before but a number of members had not received their payments.

Meanwhile, the National Treatment Purchase Fund has revealed there were 375,440 people awaiting outpatient appointments at the end of December and a further 68,086 on the inpatient/ day case waiting list

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