The Executive Council, of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO), has unanimously decided to commence a nationwide ballot of members in protest at their current working environment and the failure of management to recruit/retain nursing/ midwifery staff.
This follows a review of the outcome of 12 regional consultation meetings, with members, and other workplace meetings together with email correspondence relating to the pay, working conditions and staffing currently being experienced.
At all of the consultative meetings, individual Executive members reported extreme anger from nurses and midwives in the frontline. The meetings were supplied with multiple examples of:
· chronic persistent overcrowding with no additional staff;
· excessive working hours (unpaid);
· repeated episodes of missed care, in acute, care of the elderly and disability services, with up to 30 patients being left under the sole care of third year students; and
· community services which are unable to fulfil statutory functions and are held together purely by nurses carrying excessive workloads and having to work extended unpaid additional hours.
The situation is such that the Executive Council have formed the view that the health, safety and welfare of staff, and patients, is, on a daily basis, compromised.
The Government, HSE and all health employers must recognise the need to recruit and retain additional numbers of nurses and midwives in order to provide safe care, the union claims. However the current efforts to recruit have failed as they simply cannot compete with either overseas recruitment markets and our own private hospital sector. Special recruitment and retention incentives are therefore required if the public health service is to succeed in attracting the nursing/midwifery staffing levels required to ensure safe care, a spokesperson outlined.
In making this decision the Executive Council again noted that the health service continues to have 3,800 less nursing/midwifery posts than it had in 2009.
"Against this stark, unsafe and unsustainable background the Executive Council has decided that the current, appalling, conditions for patients, and the utter disrespect by employers for nurses and midwives, must cease. The organisation will now ballot members for a campaign of industrial action, commencing with a work to rule, which will be followed by a series of one day work stoppages, " their statement said.
This industrial action will seek to secure:
· incentives aimed at enhancing the ability of health employers to recruit and retain nursing/midwifery staff; and
· secure adequate staffing levels, or to curtail services to a level necessary to provide safe care and a safe working environment, for members.
The Executive Council confirmed their commitment to the Lansdowne Road Agreement but demand immediate public service wide engagement, with government, to accelerate the pay restoration process.