Thursday, 11 July 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue, which is a concern. The Psychiatric Nurses Association members have withdrawn their availability for overtime from 7 a.m. this morning for an indefinite period. The PNA has indicated this will not affect child and adolescent mental health services. The HSE has stated that this course of action will have a significant impact on the delivery of mental health services generally. It is assessing the situation on a service-by-service basis. The HSE will make every effort to minimise the impact of this course of action.
For obvious reasons, this decision is very disappointing given that the PNA and health service management are still engaged in conciliation under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC. It is important to note that the dispute with the PNA was referred by the Labour Court to the WRC some time ago. Progress has been made in some areas since this engagement started, but obviously agreement has yet to be reached in remaining areas.
I appreciate that there is a degree of frustration on the part of the PNA at what it has seen as very slow progress. I urge the PNA to reconsider this decision to withdraw the availability of overtime and to continue to engage fully with the industrial relations machinery of the State to resolve the remaining issues in this dispute. I am informed that genuine progress is being made although it has been slow. I emphasise that the services are reliant on overtime as the Deputy knows well, understanding the sector as she does. The consequence of this decision is potentially significant for patients.
The HSE, supported by Government, wants to see the outstanding issues resolved as soon as possible. As the Deputy knows that can only be done through the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, and the consultations that are taking place. There will not be a separate intervention. I encourage the PNA to engage to seek to resolve issues and management will do the same. The decision to withdraw overtime will have significant consequences that those who work in and understand the sector best, as psychiatric nurses do, want to try to avoid. It is a serious development today. I think some were surprised at the decision to go ahead with it but it is a reminder that the outstanding issues need to conclude. I encourage the PNA to think again about the continuation of an industrial action which will have a significant impact on the support for many of the patients they work with daily.