Eilish O’Regan: ‘Nurses might have to take the long view to achieve aims’

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Eilish O’Regan: ‘Nurses might have to take the long view to achieve aims’

  


Stock photo
Stock photo

The country is now in no doubt about the scale of frustration and discontent among our nurses.

Last week’s all-out strike threatens to be repeated tomorrow and on Thursday, along with several more days of planned action later this month.

The nurses know better than any of us the negative impact it is having on patients and vulnerable people in the community – but they feel forced into taking the drastic step of withdrawing labour.

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The same nurses who are on the picket line will go back to their wards and probably end up working three times harder to make up for their absence because they have such a sense of caring and duty towards their patients.

So why is such a respected and essential part of our health workforce having to take to the streets on a grim winter’s day?

The arguments are now well-aired and so far they have ended in deadlock.

The nurses say there is a recruitment and retention crisis that can only be sorted by higher wages.

The Government insists they are already in line for a pay rise under the national wage agreement and any special deals would lead to knock-on demands from other unions.

Unfortunately, the opposing arguments are going nowhere and bringing misery to all concerned, including the unfortunate patients caught in the middle.

If there was ever a need for compromise on both sides, it is now.

It surely cannot be beyond the best inventive minds of the leaders in our industrial relations machinery to get both sides together to work out some agreement.

The message to the nurses is clear. The Government is not going to break the wage agreement and grant a pay rise now. It will not borrow money.

That surely does not exclude the potential for a pay rise in the future, based on some form of review of the nurses’ workloads, responsibilities and duties.

That review could have a strong focus on staff nurses who make up most of the ranks of the profession and are the vital footsoldiers who keep hospitals afloat.

Rather than the broad summary which was arrived at in the Public Service Pay Commission report, that there is no nursing crisis except in certain specialist areas, there is surely a need for a deeper analysis of where there are shortages and in what kind of hospitals or health facilities.

Apart from the other roadblocks faced by nurses at this point, the looming dark cloud of Brexit and what it could do to damage our economy makes the timing of this strike particularly unfortunate.

It’s too late now to stop tomorrow’s hospital and community health cancellations. It should never have come to this, of course, but the Government cannot ignore the wrath and the fire of the nurses.

The nursing unions may also have to learn that compromise does not mean giving in – but taking a longer route to meet their aim.

Irish Independent

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