SIPTU calls for employment of more Health Care Assistants to alleviate hospital crisis

SIPTU has called for an increase in the number of Health Care Assistants to help alleviate the worsening staff shortages and overcrowding crises in hospitals across the country.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “SIPTU has repeatedly called for the immediate deployment of Health Care Assistants to alleviate the pressure on nursing staff in hospitals. We have also called for the introduction of Theatre Assistants to assist hospital surgeons with routine surgical procedures. These measures could have a very positive impact on hospital waiting times and patient care.

“To this end, SIPTU has requested that the HSE create 800 new Health Care Assistant positions. Such a move would reduce the staff to patient ratio in our hospitals and the exorbitant costs of hiring temporary agency staff, which is running in excess of €27 million for this year alone.”

He added: “It seemed as if progress had been made on this issue in recent weeks with both the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health expressing a desire to alleviate the staff shortage crisis by seeking a ‘skill mix solution’. This would result in an increased number of Health Care Assistants to support other grades of health staff. A SIPTU delegation also attended a HSE briefing on the introduction of Theatre Assistants, a new grade of health worker, earlier this year.

“However, our members are amazed that health service management has yet to engage with the union representing these vital health workers on either of these issues. The Minister for Health, Leo Vardakar, and HSE officials need to immediately commence a dialogue on increasing the number and roles of Health Care Assistants with the union which represents these workers. Our members have a clear message and that is stop talking about us and start talking to us”. Bell concluded.

SIPTU welcomes HSE decision to attend conciliation over staffing levels in Meath community units

SIPTU members have welcomed the HSE decision to attend conciliation at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to try to resolve a dispute over its failure to fill vacant nursing posts on a permanent basis in two community units in County Meath.

St Joseph’s Hospital in Trim and Beaufort House in Navan have a total of 8.14 whole-time equivalent (WTE) vacant nursing posts, including a clinical nurse manager.

The union had argued that HSE management was in breach of the public service agreement by not filling these posts. Management has subsequently filled them with agency staff on short-term contracts.

SIPTU Organiser, John McCamley, said: “SIPTU nursing members believed that the only way to truly have an on- going reliable service is to permanently fill these vacancies. It was an incredible decision not to fill the nursing vacancies and was taken unilaterally by management without any consultation or without a proper strategy to deal with the staffing gaps. While our position to fill these vacant posts on a permanent basis has not changed, we welcome the decision of all parties to engage at the WRC to try to resolve this dispute.”

SIPTU members to vote on HSE proposal in Galway health workers dispute

SIPTU members working as social care workers and social care leaders in County Galway will vote on a proposal tabled by the HSE to resolve a dispute concerning the payment of monies owed to them for evening work.

SIPTU Organiser, Mark Lohan, said: “Social care workers and social care leaders working for Ability West and the Brothers of Charity Services in Galway have not received monies that the Labour Court ruled were owed to them as compensation for these organisations failure to honour so-called ‘twilight payment’ rates.

“The failure by management to honour the Labour Court ruling led to industrial action by workers. However, following intensive negotiations between SIPTU representatives and the HSE, management has presented a proposal which incudes an offer of three years back pay to the affected workers. This measure of justice is added to the union negotiated payment of the correct wages going forward since January 2015.”

He added: “SIPTU members turned up the heat in this dispute in recent weeks serving management with notice of strike action and highlighting the situation to Government TDs. These actions have resulted in a clear proposal from theemployer’s side. It is now up to the members to vote for acceptance or rejection in a ballot that will be conducted in the coming days.

“This dispute has been difficult for the workers. It has also been difficult and stressful for the families of service users and clients. However, SIPTU members ensured that those vulnerable clients were not adversely affected during the industrial action.

“SIPTU representatives have succeeded in the negotiations in ensuring the back pay settlement covers all care staff, in both companies, who work twilight shifts, and who have been historically denied the correct wages. The current proposal gives back as much as could be pried from the HSE and Department of Health, as precedent and statute also limits back pay claims.”

Members Update: Lansdowne Road Proposals

The balloting of SIPTU Health members on the Lansdowne Road proposals is underway and information meetings are taking place around the country.

Speaking to SIPTUhealth.ie Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “After consulting our members we took the decision to host information meetings around the country to help our Shop Stewards campaign for a YES vote on the Lansdowne Road proposals. We also did this to ensure every member uses their vote before the July 22nd,

It is very important that our members have the opportunity to fully inform themselves about the agreement before they cast their vote.”

So far, we have taken the conversation to Tipperary, Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick and Donegal. Our Shop Stewards have been very constructive and engaged throughout our Better Health Care, Better Jobs campaign and they have taken that commitment, passion and enthusiasm to our meetings.

What is very clear is our members know the proposals another step in the journey to recover what was taken from them during the economic crisis.That is the message our members are carrying loud and clear into workplaces across the country and that the recruitment of non-union members of the health service into the union is very important for any future negotiations.

SIPTU Shop Steward, Jane Reynolds told SIPTUhealth.ie she is hopeful the proposals will be well received by members she represents in her workplace.

“My view is this is a stepping stone towards better pay restoration. Our short term goal must be to get this modest increase back into the pockets of our members over the next two years.

Our SIPTU representatives can then go back to the negotiation table and hopefully get another increase in take home pay for members in the health service.”

SIPTU Health will be hosting meetings in Sligo, Tralee, Wexford next week.

Investment in ambulance service critical to delivery of primary care

SIPTU has called on the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, to immediately release the capacity review into the National Ambulance Service.

Speaking today at the Labour Party Conference in Killarney, SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The creation of 50 paramedic positions in the West of Ireland is a step in the right direction.

“However, what is required is the publication of the capacity review of the National Ambulance Service.

“Our members are deeply concerned about the direction of the ambulance service and demanded a capacity review in February 2014. One year later we are still waiting.”

Paul Bell added: “If the National Ambulance Service is to function at the level that the HIQA is demanding, and the public and communities deserve, then the Government needs to seriously invest in recruitment and resources.

“The time has come for the Government to provide leadership and the public with confidence that the National Ambulance Service is safe, fully resourced and fit for purpose”