Thursday, 7 February 2019
Nurses and Midwives Industrial Action: Statements
Tá mé sona sásta seans a bheith agam caint faoin ábhar tábhachtach seo. Ba mhaith liom mo chuid tacaíochta a thabhairt do na haltraí.
Last week, I joined the nurses on the picket line at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital along with an Teachta Munster and other local representatives. Later today, I will be outside Louth County Hospital with them in Dundalk. The nurses and midwives on the picket line do not want to be on strike. It is clear, however, from the overwhelming public support they are receiving that the people, including patients who are being affected by the strike, do not blame the nurses. They understand that the nurses have been badly treated by successive Governments. They know, as everybody knows, that our health services are in crisis and they accept that this industrial action is about providing a health service fit for purpose and capable of treating patients effectively and efficiently. They also accept that, without significant changes in pay, the core problems of recruitment and retention of staff, capacity and patient safety will not be addressed. In these circumstances, the nursing shortage and the crisis in the health service will only get worse.
The Minister must know that up to 80% of those who are leaving the profession of nursing and midwifery are resigning. They are not retiring; there are resigning. There are leaving the health service. Fine Gael has almost had eight years to address the recruitment and retention crisis and it has failed. The Minister for Health and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform are presiding over the scandal of over-expenditure at the new children's hospital. The Taoiseach argues this is value for money. At the same time, he rejects the demands from the nurses. The Government has no problem with landlords, bankers and vulture funds making huge profits but it is denying nurses the modest and legitimate increase they demand.
Last year, Sinn Féin introduced a Private Members' motion on the pay and recruitment of nurses and midwives. It was passed unanimously but the recommendations were ignored. The unions have proposed sensible, responsible solutions that, if adopted by the Government and HSE, would end the industrial action and improve conditions for staff and patients and therefore improve the health services. They have been ignored. It is up to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the Minister for Health and the Taoiseach to engage with the INMO and PNA and find resolutions based on workable solutions.
As for Fianna Fáil, come on lads, get real. An Teachta Martin's confidence and supply policy makes the party's protestations over Fine Gael's incompetence and arrogance, even if genuine, ring hollow. Fianna Fáil must know that Fine Gael is in government only because Fianna Fáil supports it in its policies. If Fianna Fáil really supports the nurses, it should stop supporting this bad Government.