Nurses Dispute To Escalate

PSYCHIATRIC nurses have warned that they plan this week to significantly increase their industrial action, which has shut wards and curtailed services all over the country .

Members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) are refusing to work overtime in protest at the level of compensation being offered by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to nurses attacked at work.

Last night PNA General Secretary Des Kavanagh said they would be meeting with SIPTU tomorrow to discuss their next move and warned that services would be significantly affected this week.

“This could drag on for some time, but it is better for the patients to bring things to a head this week,” he said.

“We’ve been working at this for 15 years now.”

He said services had been affected much more quickly than they anticipated, adding it highlighted just how dependent the HSE was on nursing overtime.

Mr kavanagh agreed that any time nurses went on strike there were some risks to patients, but he pointed out that workers had no other choice.

He pointed to the Labour Court recommendations which said the payments for injuries should be in line with the societal average.

However, proposed payments by the HSE can amount to as little as a quarter of the payout which would be approved by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) for the same injury. The Labour Court also recommended that compensation be historical, but the HSE has rejected this.

“In 1993 three nurses were stabbed in Artane and one man was stabbed through the heart,” said Mr Kavanagh.

“He hasn’t worked since and has ongoing health problems. But he would only be entitled to €5,000 under the scheme as it is. That’s not acceptable.”

Last night HSE management called on the PNA and SIPTU members to ensure enough staff were on the wards at all times.

Laverne McGuinness, National Director of Primary, Community and Continuing Care services, said they were “very disappointed” at the actions and said HSE managers worked through the weekend to try and keep wards open.

However, some beds have been put out of service.

“The industrial action is severely hindering the HSE’s ability to respond to patients who need urgent care and admission and is forcing it to close day care and community services,” she said.

She also said that workers had the option of getting further compensation from the PIAB in cases where employer liability is accepted.

So far the male ward in Tallaght hospital has been closed as well as 26 out of 35 beds in Naas. The Central Mental Hospital has also had to close admissions.

Services in Cork, Louth, Meath, Monaghan and Galway have also been directly affected.

Last night Fine Gael’s Mental Health spokesman, Dan Neville, called on the HSE to intervene in the dispute before disruption is further escalated.