Seanad debates

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

10:30 am

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

As the Leader knows, I have raised the crisis of industrial relations at University Hospital Limerick, UHL, on a number of occasions since May of this year. I highlighted the victimisation of shop stewards, including the case of one man who, eight months on, is still awaiting a resolution. I also highlighted a culture of bullying which is embedded deep in management thinking at the hospital. I referred to the failure to investigate a most vile letter which was sent to a staff member. I have highlighted an incidence of nepotism, whereby an individual related to hospital management landed a senior post at the hospital without even having an interview. Since then the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, has intervened but this morning I learned that the management of UHL has done something quite remarkable, elevating incompetence to the level of an art form. Despite months of crisis, despite the intervention of the advisory service of the WRC and despite a finding by that body that industrial relations dispute resolution processes were “dysfunctional”, management seems intent on making a bad situation worse. As things stand, we face a four-hour stoppage by hospital porters tomorrow, the second such stoppage in recent weeks. An eight-hour stoppage will be scheduled after tomorrow’s action. This is happening in a hospital with the worst bed and trolley crisis in Ireland.

I have previously written to the Minister for Health and asked him to intervene. In a response that would not be out of place in an episode of “Father Ted”, he wrote back telling me that he had been in contact with the hospital and management had assured him that everything was fine. Everything is not fine. Hospital management continues to move from one blunder to the next. An agreement to hold regular meetings under the auspices of the WRC has been ignored by hospital management. An agreement with unions to deal with the staffing crisis, signed off in February 2017, still awaits implementation. Chronic shortages of healthcare attendants are as bad today as when that agreement was signed 19 months ago.No recruitment process is in place to deal with this.  The handful of hires that have been made are to cover backfill positions.  No new interviews are scheduled.  Nineteen months on, management constantly breaks its word and has lost the confidence of the entire staff working in UHL.  I call for an urgent debate with the Minister on the matter.  I call for an intervention by the Minister and not just a letter telling me he has written to the hospital.  The people of Limerick are suffering and the staff at UHL are at their wits' end.  Hospital management continually fail to deal with industrial relations in a professional way.  It has lost the confidence of the entire staffing body.  We urgently need action on the issue.


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