Harney Says Patients Are Suffering From Protests

The Minister for Health, Mary Harney, has said that patients are suffering as a result of the current work stoppages being undertaken by the Irish Nurses Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association.

She was speaking as nurses held a protest at the entrance to the National Rehabilitation Institute in Dún Laoghaire where she  formally unveiled a new piece of machinery to assist patients.

Earlier, nurses staged one-hour work stoppages at eight medical facilities in counties Cork, Leitrim, Louth and Sligo in their dispute over pay and conditions. Further work stoppages will take place at selected hospitals tomorrow.

The Health Service Executve described the action as unnecessary and claimed that patients were the big losers. Over 400 nurses picketed outside Sligo General Hospital in support of the INO and PNA claim for a 10% pay increase and a 35-hour working week.

Nurses say the deferral of 16 operations and appointments at the hospital was not caused by their industrial action. But hospital management says they were. Elsewhere, 200 nurses from the Louth County Hospital in Dundalk, together with colleagues from other health facilities, also took part in a one-hour protest.

The HSE said no operations had to be cancelled as a result of the walk-out. The General Secretary of the Irish Nurses Organisation, Liam Doran, said the protest actions would continue for however long it would take. Following today’s and tomorrow’s protests, the strategy committee would need to discuss what should happen next, he said. ‘We have offered creativity and imagination’ as an interim step towards entering benchmarking, Mr Doran said. However, flexibility was needed on both sides, he added.

Further one-hour work stoppages will be staged tomorrow at St James’s Hospital in Dublin and at hospitals and psychiatric centres in Clare, Laois and Offaly. Management at the Midlands Hospital in Portlaoise have said they hope to be in a position to provide the majority of services tomorrow. The announcement came after they met with the INO co-ordinating committee to finalise arrangements ahead of the planned action.

Patients who are not contacted are advised to attend appointments, but have been warned to expect delays. The nurses’ work-to-rule is also continuing.