Psychiatric nurses are not answering phones to distressed patients as part of industrial action over the understaffing of mental health services.
Patients trying to contact their assigned community mental health nurses via mobile numbers are receiving voicemails stating the nurse is “advised not to answer” because of an industrial relations’ dispute and, in case of emergency, to ring the local day hospital.
At larger psychiatric units, only administrative staff are answering phones. Psychiatric nurses are refusing.
Patients in the South West have contacted the Irish Examiner to say “service users are being punished” and claimed the industrial action “is unduly unfair on patients in crisis who generally have strong relationships with community mental health nurses”.
The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) confirmed industrial action includes not answering some phones.
The PNA was due to begin phase three of its action today but it was deferred for 24 hours to allow for further talks at the Workplace Relations Commission, according to the PNA.
“We have made progress on some issues while there are other issues that are proving more difficult such as incremental pay for nurses recruited between 2011 and 2015,” said PNA spokesman Derek Cunningham.
The PNA is also seeking a “significant” increase in psychiatric nurse training places but the HSE has not yet agreed to the increases.
Tentative contact was made between health service employers and the union at the WRC last Friday and more formal talks took place this week.
As part of phase three of its action, PNA members were to begin refusing overtime. Under phase two, nurses refused to use IT unless it was direct inputting of patient reports. They also limited the use of their own transport, refused to co-operate with reconfiguration, and only attend clinical meetings.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved