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Deputy Michael McNamara, has appealed for a greater use of Ennis Hospital to help ease overcrowding in University Hospital Limerick.

Oireachtas members concerned over threat of nurses’s industrial action

FEARS have been expressed about the serious implications any strike at University Hospital Limerick will have on patient care following the decision of the INMO to ballot for industrial action.

Deputy Michael McNamara recalled there have been calls in recent months to reduce overcrowding in UHL and the need to increase medical facilities in smaller hospitals such as and Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals.

The chairman of the Covid-19 Special Dáil Committee stressed the time for talking about these improvements was now over and it was time that action is taken to address serious shortcomings in UHL.

If necessary, Deputy McNamara said Health Minister Stephen Donnelly should be asked to intervene to prevent the threatened strike.

Deputy Violet Anne-Wynne called on Health Minister Donnelly to intervene in a bid to avert the threatened strike.

She called for a recruitment campaign in UHL as staff like porters and cleaners are experiencing staff shortages.

“I am shocked Minister Donnelly hasn’t stepped in already to have a meeting about a recruitment drive.”

Deputy Cathal Crowe confirmed he would be raising this issue with Minister Donnelly and noted the UL Hospitals’ Group is something the he has regularly discussed with the minister.

He called on the hospital group management to fully engage with the INMO to address issues at the centre of the dispute.

“Appreciation for nurses and front line staff has never been as great. There is a huge public appreciation of what they are doing. While I respect the right of the INMO to engage in a ballot, I think everything should be done to avert work stoppages because this is not a time in the midst of a crisis to have a withdrawal of labour.

“My own mother is a nurse, my loyalty would be with nurses at all times,” he said.

Senator Timmy Dooley said all front line health workers really stepped up to the plate during the Covid-19 health pandemic, particularly those who work in acute public hospitals.

“These front line workers know at first hand the real issues and concerns. We are heading into a winter where we already had high trolley numbers in UHL.

“The INMO would not threaten industrial action unless they felt it was a problem. They are key honest brokers who need to be listened to. There will have to be a greater investment in healthcare due to the pandemic.”

Senator Martin Conway said the last thing that Clare patients need is industrial unrest among nursing staff as Covid-19 has amplified serious challenges in the health care system.

Welcoming plans for a scheduled WRC meeting in early September, he said engagement between UHL management and the INMO needs to happen urgently.

He expects the ballot for industrial action will be supported as he is very aware of the challenging conditions in UHL.

“We need a negotiated resolution to this dispute, particularly for patients’ perspective. I call on all parties to sit down and resolve the issues,” he said.

Senator Roisín Garvey said nurses who had worked extremely hard during the pandemic didn’t want to go on strike, which should be avoided at all costs.

She stressed it is vital that the concerns being expressed by nurses are listened to and addressed as they are vital frontline workers who are essential in the battle against Covid-19.

A spokesman for UL Hospitals’ Group said the group are committed to consultation and engagement with trade unions on the much needed service developments and additional bed capacity under construction at UHL and at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.

The group remain focused on increasing our staffing levels both to better meet the challenges of Covid-19 and to staff the new wards.

A number of consultative forums are in place for the unions to address any issues as they arise. These forums provide for regular engagement between unions and management.

The next such forum meeting is scheduled for Friday, September 4th under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission Advisory Service.

The public health emergency remains challenging for all staff and various supports, including counselling, are in place for  staff.

“Th group remain committed to good industrial relations and continue to be available to meet with the unions. However, the group are disappointed that this ballot for industrial action comes at a time when cases of Covid-19 continue to rise in the MidWest and across the country and the pandemic is far from over,” he said.

Dan Danaher

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