Nurses and midwives are to vote on strike action to highlight the issue of ‘chronic understaffing' in the health service.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has announced that its members are to vote over the coming weeks. The action will begin with a 24-hour work stoppage. During that time, nurses would only provide essential, life-preserving care, and emergency response teams for theatres and Emergency Departments (EDs).
This could escalate to two 24-hour stoppages the following week, the INMO warned.
The move comes after INMO members voted overwhelmingly to reject pay proposals put forward by the Government last month. The organisation insisted that low wages have made it ‘impossible' for the HSE to recruit and retain enough nurses to provide appropriate and safe care.
"According to the HSE, for every four nursing vacancies, there is only one application. The health service now pays recruitment agencies a €10,000 bounty for every nurse or midwife they find to hire.
"There are 2,600 fewer nurses working in the Irish public health service today than in 2007, with a fall of 227 staff nurses between December 2017 and September 2018 alone," it noted.
The INMO has repeatedly called for an across-the-board pay rise to deal with this issue. It pointed out that two agencies have already taken this approach and are offering nurses and midwives 20% more than the HSE rate of pay.
"We have been forced down this path because the Government has failed to deal with chronic understaffing. Nurses and midwives are the lowest paid professionals in the health service, which is why the HSE is finding it impossible to recruit or retain. We cannot wait any longer. Patients deserve a properly staffed health service," commented INMO president, Martina Harkin-Kelly.
Meanwhile, according to INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha, this is about safety.
"The HSE simply cannot hire enough nurses and midwives on these wages. Patients are suffering the consequences as our wards and services go understaffed.
"Nurses and midwives do not want a strike, they want a solution. The employers have already wasted a fortnight since our last ballot. The next two weeks are a cooling off period for the Government to engage with us, make serious proposals and avoid industrial action," she said.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.