Kilkenny patients face more disruption this week as nurses escalate strike action
PATIENT services at St Luke’s General Hospital will be severely curtailed again this week when striking nurses return to the picket line tomorrow and Thursday.
And our ailing health services’ winter of discontent looks set to continue after the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) confirmed a major escalation in its dispute with the Government over the weekend.
The country’s 37,000 nurses will stage two extra days of strike action on February 19 and 21 on top of the five days of already-announced strikes scheduled for this month.
It will also escalate the number of nursing services on strike, which will increase from 82 to 240. This will mean that respite services for people with intellectual disabilities and also the elderly will be directly impacted by the dispute.
The announcement followed a meeting of the INMO executive in Dublin on Saturday.
Meanwhile the Government has rowed back on threats to hit nurses with severe financial penalties amid a growing public backlash. Opinion polls show up to three quarters of the public back the nurses’ action for better pay and conditions.
Nurses will stage the second of six planned stoppages tomorrow, with a third all-day strike scheduled to take place two days later unless a compromise deal can be reached.
This will be followed by three consecutive days of strike action planned for February 12, 13 and 14, plus the two days of further stoppages announced over the weekend.
Kilkenny patients are being urged to stay away from St Luke’s, which is already suffering from overcrowding, during the strike action unless in the case of an emergency. On Friday 13 patients at St Luke’s were treated on hospital trolleys, according to latest figures from the INMO’s trolley ward watch figures.
A senior Government source told KilkennyNowie that some small pay increases could be considered, but that the nurses’ demands could not be fully met because of the knock-on effect it would have on the public sector pay deal with unions from other sectors.
Ahead of the first strike last Wednesday, the Government warned that nurses who breached the public sector pay deal by taking industrial action faced a series of sanctions, including a nine-month delay in pay rises due under the agreement and a freeze in increments.
However, Health Minister Simon Harris and Tánaiste Simon Coveney later appeared to row back on the Government’s hardline approach, saying it is now “taking legal advice” in relation to how sanctions may be used.