Nurses have expressed their disappointment at the HSE and Department of Health's failure to come up with any new proposals aimed at averting potential strike action by them.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) are due to vote on strike action from November 19 to highlight the issue of ‘chronic understaffing' in the health service.
If nurses vote in favour, 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.
In an effort to avert strike action, the INMO met with the HSE and the Department of Health on November 9. However, while both the HSE and department acknowledged that the recruitment and retention of nurses remains a major difficulty, no proposals to tackle this were made at the meeting.
The INMO pointed out that Ireland's public health service has 2,600 fewer nurses and midwives today compared with 2007, yet demands on the health service have increased significantly.
"Nurses and midwives are immensely dedicated professionals and our concerns deserve to be taken seriously. We will not stand by while patient care is compromised due to understaffing. The HSE simply cannot hire enough nurses and midwives on these wages," commented INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
She insisted that the decision to strike will not be taken lightly.
"We have been clear with the HSE and Department of Health, setting out the areas where they should focus in order to avert this dispute. We remain available for discussions each and every day until balloting begins," she added.
The HSE and Department of Health have committed to further meetings.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.