Thursday, 7 February 2019
Nurses and Midwives Industrial Action: Statements
James Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
Today nurses and midwives are again on strike. The Psychiatric Nurses Association is escalating its campaign, involving 6,000 psychiatric nurses and more than 37,500 whole-time equivalent nurses and midwives. They do not want to be on strike. Nurses want to be caring for their patients, for the sick. What is this nurses' dispute about? It is about a very reasonable unhappiness about their work conditions. They have been warning the Government since 2013 about their work conditions and its impact on the risks to patients' safety. They have many valid concerns, including overcrowding in our hospitals, which are running at 95% to 120% capacity. They have concerns around understaffing. They are seriously overstretched. They are suffering from a phenomenal level of assaults; 70% of all assaults are on nurses. Psychiatric nurses suffer a great number of assaults and that number has been increasing year on year. There are serious issues around recruitment and retention. There are issues around the cost of living and, of course, around pay. They are asking a very fair question about pay, namely, why nurses are starting off on €6,000 to €7,000 less than equivalently qualified, allied health professionals.
Nursing became an honours degree 17 years ago. It is timely that the way they are paid, assessed, rewarded and supported is now reassessed. This matter will be resolved, but when will the Government engage on a meaningful basis with the nurses in this country, the INMO nurses and psychiatric nurses?