Patients should not be used as “Pawns” as Further Health Service Unrest Planned

By Seamus Whelehan

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Patients should not be used as “pawns”, a Patient Advocacy Group warns, as further industrial unrest by Ambulance crew looms and the onset of strike action by nursing staff.

Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients Association said patients are being put in a potentially precarious situation when industrial action is being taken.   The spokesperson for the Irish Patients Association said “the threat of unrest in the Health Service is far more threatening to the people of Ireland than Brexit.”   “It’s too high a price” he said, “for what is essentially something that will be negotiated at the end of the day” and he urged all parties to resolve their difference before further action is taken.

On Tuesday 22 January the Youghal and Midleton Ambulance was left standing idle because of a ten hour work stoppage.   Pickets were placed on both ambulance bases between 7:00am and 5:00pm, in a row which centres on the HSE’s refusal to recognise the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA) as an official Union.   The move led to reliance by the Health Service Executive on the Defence Force to provide emergency cover for up to 60,000 people across East Cork.

SIPTU, UNITE and FORSA are recognised by the Health Service as the official Union for frontline ambulance crew, representing up to 1,300 ambulance personnel, many of which  are members of SIPTU.  A member of NASRA, speaking with The East Cork Journal, claimed the HSE was “reckless” in their actions putting the lives of people at risk.   “To strip 100 vehicles off the road because you won’t talk to a Union is reckless.  They knew this was coming” they said.

The National Ambulance service say despite operating in “challenging” conditions on Tuesday they received over 600 calls, to which all were responded, with no patient concerns.  NASRA, a breakaway Union affiliated to the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), say they are not adequately represented by the recognised Unions.  The 500 strong group say more industrial action is on the way if the Health Service fails to recognise them as an official Union.

The HSE say that recognising other Unions “would undermine the positive engagement that exists, and would impair good industrial relations.”

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