An emergency medicine consultant has warned that while there is not a “significant risk of immediate death” because of the strike on Wednesday, there will be serious implications for the running of the health service.
Dr Fergal Hickey told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that there will be delays and inconvenience for patients and staff during the planned strike by healthcare support staff following the breakdown of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission on Monday.
Contingency planning will achieve only so much, he said. But for contingency plans to work people will have to do jobs that they don’t normally do.
The longer the dispute goes on, the more difficult it will be to resolve it as there is a danger that both sides will become entrenched, he warned.
Dr Hickey said that for Emergency Departments the strike will cause problems as there will be no access to portering to bring patients to wards or radiology.
Cleaning the department will also be a concern as over a 24 hour period there are significant “spills of blood and other bodily fluids. Normal cleaning will not be in place.”
Healthcare support staff are important cogs in the running of the health service, he said.
Once the strike goes to a second day it will make it more and more difficult to contingency manage, he warned.
Elective surgeries and scope procedures will not go ahead because there will not be staff available to sterilize equipment.
The dispute could have been resolved last week, he said. The sad thing is that both sides could become more entrenched.
The Irish Patients Association says clarity is needed on the impact tomorrow's strike by 10,000 health support workers will have on patients.
A 24-hour stoppage looks set to go ahead after talks between SIPTU, the HSE and Department of Public Expenditure at the Workplace Relations Commission yesterday failed to reach an agreement.
38 hospital and healthcare facilities will be affected by tomorrow's strike action, with the likes of cleaners, chefs and porters downing tools in a dispute over a jobs evaluation scheme.
SIPTU health organiser Paul Bell said throughout the negotiations, their members' requests have not been taken seriously by the government.
"We do believe that the Government have not treated our members seriously," said Mr Bell.
And having deferred two days of strike action to give a real chance of negotiating a settlement, we believe that a lot more could have been done.
The HSE has said services will be significantly impacted and it is engaging with SIPTU on contingency arrangements.
However, the Irish Patients Association says it is worried there has been no explanation on what the contingency plans are.
Spokesperson for the Irish Patients Association, Stephen McMahon, said the HSE need to be clear to patients on what they can expect.
"There has been no public explanation as to what those contingency plans are," said Mr McMahon.
"We hear that they are being negotiated on a local level but we don't know whether there will be the equity of treatment in all of the 38 hospitals that are going to be affected."
It is clear however that some inpatient procedures will be deferred and scope procedures cancelled.
There will also be reduced outpatient, lab and catering services and operating theatre activity.