Vote against transfer shows ‘intensity of emotion’

The Psychiatric Nurses Association has described as “unique” the action of nurses who voted against transferring to a new €15m acute psychiatric unit despite three in five being offered an incentive to do so.

PNA general secretary Des Kavanagh said the rejection of the proposals, despite offering incentives to 29 of the 42 nurses, “demonstrated the intensity of the emotion” around the dispute that has delayed the opening of a new psychiatric unit on the grounds of Cork University Hospital by four months.

In an effort to break the deadlock, which centres around proposed staffing levels and the delayed opening of a six-bed high observation unit within the 50-bed facility, the HSE had offered to regularise the position of 12 staff in acting higher posts and to make 17 temporary staff permanent.

However, all 20 mental health nurses represented by Siptu and 18 of 22 nurses represented by the PNA turned down the offer this week on the grounds that it didn’t address their key concerns. The HSE has also offered 16 additional posts, including five healthcare assistants. Nurses are unhappy with the proposal to boost staff numbers with healthcare assistants on the basis that they are not qualified mental health nurses.

READ MORE: HSE clears outspoken nurse for return to work .  

READ MORE: HSE clears outspoken nurse for return to work .  

Mr Kavanagh said the HSE had taken a “schoolteacherly approach” to the dispute, and that it was time for them to “get into the real world and recognise that they were dealing with mature people with genuine concerns”.

He said the staff were “very reasonable people, but also very strong-willed about getting the staffing right” from the get-go.

The HSE has sought an urgent referral of the dispute to the Labour Court — it has already been in the Labour Relations Commission on a number of occasions since January.

Mr Kavanagh said the HSE “seems to have taken the view that it can get a decision from arbitration” but that was “not good enough for the nurses”, who were entitled to work in a safe environment where patient safety was also guaranteed. He said the Labour Court did not have the skills to adjudicate on a clinical issue.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on mental health, Colm Keaveney, has called on Mental Health Minister Kathleen Lynch to urgently intervene in the dispute.

“We have reached an unbelievable, unacceptable situation at Cork University Hospital whereby we have a much-needed state-of-the-art facility lying idle because of a row that should have been resolved months ago. I am appalled that Minister Lynch, who is a TD for the area, has allowed the matter to deteriorate without any direct intervention,” Mr Keaveney said.

The HSE said it is “very disappointed” with the result of the vote and that patients, as a result, “continue to be treated in the outdated GF unit”.

The new unit has four beds more than GF and is designed to cater for acute adult general psychiatry as well as the psychiatry of old age.

READ MORE: HSE clears outspoken nurse for return to work .  

READ MORE: HSE clears outspoken nurse for return to work .  

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