On Wednesday, over 30,000 members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation formed picket lines outside hospitals and HSE facilities across the nation. The striking nurses are demanding pay restoration and for the Government to take action on staff shortages; issues which they say are affecting staff morale.
The strike affected a broad range of patient services in hospitals, healthcare centres, and community facilities across the country on Wednesday. This is only the second occasion in 100-years on which nurses have had to resort to strike action. Pickets were placed on all acute hospitals including the Midland Regional Hospitals in Mullingar and Tullamore, Portiuncula Hospital, Sligo University Hospital and University Hospital Galway. There were also pickets at Roscommon County Hospital. The Urgent Care Centre at Roscommon Hospital was closed due to the strike action, however, Primary Care Centres in the region remained open. The INMO did place pickets on the Primary Care Centres at Clonbrusk in Athlone, in Monksland, Mullingar, Boyle, and Roscommon town. The dramatic action by nurses has been described as “extraordinarily regrettable” by Health Minister Simon Harris.
Nurses also protested outside St Joseph’s Care Centre in Longford. The nurses there made the most of the extremely cold winter conditions by building a snowman which they labelled “Leo”, a reference, we are sure, to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who has taken a cold line on the pay-talks and is refusing to engage further in discussions. The deadlock between the INMO and Government may see up to 5 additional 24-hour strikes added to the existing schedule of stoppages if the dispute is not resolved. The INMO claims that nurses are ready to reenter talks but are waiting for the Government to engage in a meaningful way.
There is no sign in sight that the deadlock between the Government and nursing organisations will be broken with further action planned by both the INMO and PSA in the coming days and weeks. On Thursday the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) halted all over-time, and on Tuesday coming, February 5th, further industrial action is planned by the INMO. The 6,000 members of the PNA have begun an overtime ban as part of an escalating campaign of industrial action over pay and conditions. The psychiatric nurses will continue to refuse to work overtime today (Friday 1st) and on further again on February 5th, 6th, and 7th.
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