Thursday, 7 February 2019
Nurses and Midwives Industrial Action: Statements
That shows the real issues. The staff are working in environments in which they simply do not have enough space or nurses. There are real issues in recruitment. A range of vacancies in Limerick have not been filled. Two weeks ago with other Oireachtas Members from County Tipperary I met management of the HSE and South Tipperary General Hospital where one of the modular units is to be built. They told us straight up that it would not be opened within the timelines it should be opened. There will be a nice new building, but the fact is that it cannot be opened because of the time it will take to recruit nurses. It will take so long because it is not an attractive enough proposition and they will have to work extra hard to be able to do it. It is in our interests to ensure the issue is dealt with quickly because the Government's capital programme is obviously now quite upset owing to the massive overspend on the children's hospital. There are, however, quite a lot of good programmes, strategies and projects into the future, whether it be the national maternity strategy, of which I am hugely supportive, future mental health programmes or future developments across a range of other services in the acute and non-acute sectors. The issue, though, is that, frankly, they are all a waste of time and will all go to pot, unless there are the staff in the first place to be able to implement them.
There is workforce planning I hope in the public sector and the private sector to a great extent. What workforce planning is taking place in the context of the future of the health service? What workforce planning will be accurate and capable of implementing all of thee strategies and ensuring we will have the volume of human resources to carry out the strategies? What workforce planning can be a vision to deal with the issue if the Government will not sit down and talk to the nurses and discuss their issues? What does this say to them about their future? What does it say to those who are taking four-year nursing degree programmes? What does it say to all of the Irish nurses in Australia and all of the other countries around the world who want to come? It says there is no plan and no vision. The nurses will see that the Government has all of these fancy plans but no plan to ensure they will have decent careers.
It is time to wake up and deal with this issue. There is no requirement for the Government to set down preconditions. It should treat the nurses and the public with respect. I am not sure if Fine Gael and the Government know how to do industrial relations, but I ask them to learn quickly because I can absolutely guarantee them that the public will stay on the side of the nurses in this dispute for as long as it takes. I urge the Government to sit down and talk to them now. It is in its interest to do so.