NURSES at the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore joined 37,000 of their INMO colleagues around the country yesterday [Tuesday, February 5] in a 24 hour work stoppage over pay and staffing issues.
All outpatient, inpatient and day surgery appointments at the hospital were cancelled and just a skeleton staff remained on duty to deal with emergencies. Four urgent surgeries went ahead, but that was all.
The HSE say hospitals in the Dublin Mid-Leinster hospital group which includes Tullamore had 2,500 outpatient appointments and 250 inpatient elective day case procedures postponed on the first day of the strike which was Wednesday January 30. It would have been a similar picture yesterday.
INMO nurse and spokesperson at Tullamore hospital, Mick Schnackenberg said there are between 250 to 280 nurses working at the hospital. He said many of them are highly qualified and he himself has done advanced courses and is in a position to prescribes medicines for patients. “I don’t get any extra money for that. It’s pathetic,” he said. “Nurses are leaving the country, these are young qualified nurses...top quality, gone off to Australia, it’s heartbreaking. It’s not sustainable, there will be no nurses left here within 20 years. 70 per cent of the nurses are aged 40 plus, when they retire who is going to replace them,” he asked.
Patricia Masterson is a public health nurse and INMO representative she was also on the picket line. “I am here to support my colleagues. We have lost so many of our graduates abroad, and they have said on Facebook all over the world ‘give us a reason to come home’. They want to come home but they want to be able to have a home in this country.”
Patricia claims while the HSE maintain there is no problem recruiting nurses they are spending vast sums of money to hire nurses abroad. She says for each nurse recruited overseas the recruitment companies are charging between €10,000 and €11,000.
“These nurses come to this country they are very welcome but very often they realise there is more financial attractiveness in other countries and a lot of them relocate there.
If that €10,000 was put into nurses basic salary to give them what they are entitled to after 4 years in university they could live in this country.”
According to Patricia student nurses having spent 4 years at university many of them with bachelor of science degrees earn €10 per hour. She claims health care assistants earn more than nurses in the first five years.
“The reason I’m out is for our future in this country so the nurses can look after me and you in the future, because we are losing a generation. We all took a 17 per cent wage cut, So when they are talking about a wage increase it’s really a restoration.”
“The Government gave themselves a €5,000 wage increase in the past few weeks if that was put into the graduates you wouldn’t have a problem. We are now in a situation where for every four jobs there is only one applicant. I’m not an accountant I don’t do budgets except my own family budget, but those figures don’t add up,” concluded Patricia.
Meanwhile the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) has said nurses should be prepared “to dig in for the long haul”, as a further day of strike is planned for Thursday February 7 of this week.
The HSE say every effort will be made to reschedule patients as early as possible. However it has advised that with ongoing planned industrial action over the coming weeks, “it will affect our ability to treat further patients in a timely way. Hospitals will continue to engage with local INMO and the strike committee to secure the safest possible level of nursing and midwifery cover in our hospitals during the period of the strike and contingency arrangements are in place. Emergency Department across the Group will remain operational but with reduced staffing levels so there may be delays. We would ask the public to please only attend emergency departments if absolutely essential.”