Irish Health Service In Meltdown

The Irish Health Service has come under increasing pressure with the news that hospital consultants are to be balloted on possible industrial action. The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) took the decision yesterday and if approved by the 1600 members the action will take place on May 21.

The latest dispute follows on from the nurses four week old work to rule campaign that will include work stoppages this week. The consultants are angry with the Health Service Excutive (HSE) decision to carry out a recruitment drive for 68 new posts outside of agreed parameters.

The Health Minister Mary Harney described the move by the consultants as `counter-productive`. She said: “There is time for talks to resume. There can be no justification, however, for the process of recruiting new consultants to eb paused or held up any more, now or in the future.”

Gerard Barry, the chief executive of the HSE Employers Agency, said he regretted the decision of the IHCA to ballot members on possible industrial action. Meanwhile, talks are expected to resume today to address the ongoing nurses` dispute.

The nurses, represented by the Irish Nurses Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses` Association, want an agreed date for the introduction of a 35 hour week and a 10.6% pay rise.

The two groups will will mount the one-hour work stoppages on Wednesday and Friday. Both unions stressed at the end of last week that some staff will be exempt to allow for essential and emergency care during the industrial dispute walkouts.

The work-to-rule action by INO and PNA nurses throughout the country which began four weeks ago is also continuing. “The escalation will mean that all major acute hospitals, together with the mental health services in the same geographic area, will have been involved in a work stoppage, in addition to the on-going work to rule,” a spokesman for the unions said.

“This is fully consistent with a mandate given to both unions, by a 98% vote, to continuously roll out this campaign on a nationwide basis.”

The unions insisted they remain willing to engage in meaningful talks with health chiefs to resolve the escalating strike action.

Hospitals and mental health services in Cork, Galway, Donegal, Monaghan Kildare, Limerick, Dublin, Kilkenny, Cavan, Waterford, Westmeath, Longford, Mayo, Louth, Limerick, Wicklow, Meath, Kerry, Offaly, Wexford will be affected.