SIPTU calls for action on ambulance staffing crisis to be highlighted in Dáil debates

SIPTU members have called for urgent action to be taken on the worsening staffing crisis in the National Ambulance Service (NAS) which will be debated in the Dáil today (Tuesday, 28th February) and tomorrow (Wednesday, 1st March).

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Ted Kenny, said: “The worsening resourcing and staffing crisis in the NAS will be the subject of debate in the Dáil over the next two days. This is a positive development and will hopefully force the Government to finally take decisive action to end a crisis which is threatening the effective delivery of public healthcare across the country.

“Sinn Féin have today presented a motion on the funding and resourcing of the NAS and the Regional Group of TDs have also tabled a motion in relation to the future of regional pre-emergency care which is scheduled for debate tomorrow. Both motions highlight the significant staffing and resourcing issues that are affecting the service and our members who work within it.”

He added: “Any political pressure that can be applied to demonstrate the importance of the service and the hard work of our members, is to be welcomed. However, action and investment are also required in order to secure the future of this service. An appropriate first step, in our view, would be the implementation of the independent review of Roles and Responsibilities at the NAS which dates back to 2018. Our members and the HSE management have both called for its immediate implementation in order to assist in alleviating the crisis in ambulance services.”

SIPTU renews calls for Minister to intervene in ambulance service staffing crisis

SIPTU members in the National Ambulance Service (NAS) have renewed their call for the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to directly intervene to ensure the recommendations of an independent review are implemented as part of a solution to a worsening staffing crisis in the service.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Ted Kenny, said: “At the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee today (Wednesday, 22ndFebruary), NAS senior management backed the view of our union that implementing the recommendations of the Independent Review of Roles and Responsibilities in the NAS would help alleviate a worsening recruitment and retention crisis in the service.

“NAS management confirmed it is supportive of the implementation of the recommendations but that the issue currently lies with the Department of Health. We are renewing our call for the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to intervene to ensure their implementation.

“The Independent Review of Roles and Responsibilities Report was jointly commissioned by the NAS, SIPTU and the HSE in 2018. The report made several recommendations to address recruitment and retention issues within the service, to identify career pathways for staff and to update the roles and responsibilities of all grades within the service.”

He added: “An appropriately funded, supported and fully staffed NAS would be of huge benefit to the public and assist our members in their role of providing emergency care in our communities.”

SIPTU supports Seanad motion on equality for healthcare staff assaulted at work

The SIPTU Health Division has called on all parties to back a motion that will be tabled in Seanad Éireann this evening (Wednesday, 22nd February) which calls on supports for healthcare staff, who suffer an assault in the workplace, to be based on equality of access and not the grade of the worker involved.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “This motion, which is being tabled by the Labour Party, calls on the government to address the issue of inequality in the treatment of healthcare workers assaulted in the workplace which was highlighted in a SIPTU submission to the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee on 8th February.

“At the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee, we highlighted the fact that healthcare workers employed as support staff within the public health service only receive 25% of the benefits that their colleagues in other grades in the event of an assault at work.

“At the hearing, SIPTU highlighted that, after their nursing colleagues, support grade staff endure the second-highest level of assaults in the workplace, according to HSE data. We also raised the fact that, according to the HSE data, 41% of support staff assaulted at work are still unfit to return after three months by which time they have exhausted their entitlements under the HSE Serious Physical Assault Scheme.

“They are then, predominately, moving to ordinary sick pay, while their colleagues employed in other grades are continuing to receive payments under the HSE Serious Physical Assault Scheme. This policy is outdated and we support the call in the motion to end this disparity.”

He added: “In addition, the motion also calls on the Government to conduct a review of all relevant protocols to ensure procedures, staffing levels and training are appropriate to minimise the risk of injury from an assault to a healthcare worker. It also calls for the development of a public awareness campaign which highlights some of the examples of assaults on healthcare workers. Both these measures were included in the SIPTU submission to the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee earlier this month.”

SIPTU calls for emergency plan to deal with staffing deficits in cancer services

SIPTU representatives have called on the HSE and the Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly, to develop an emergency plan to deal with the deficits in cancer services resulting from a 30% shortfall in radiation therapists.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “Our members have established that the staffing deficit is causing increasing delays in cancer treatment. There are currently at least four cancer treatment machines that are not in operation around the country due to a lack of qualified radiation therapists.

“These machines could treat around 30 patients a day meaning there may be as much as 120 cases not being dealt with on a daily basis due to staffing deficits. Radiation therapists perform a crucial job, as almost half of people with a cancer diagnosis will require radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan. This treatment is delivered by radiation therapists as part of a multi-disciplinary team. It is the only profession with the legal authority to deliver radiation therapy services which are mainly provided by the HSE in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

“We have successfully argued for the setting up of the Radiation Therapist Review which will hopefully recommend measures to improve recruitment and retention. The union is calling for a short-term emergency plan to bridge the gap between the present situation and when the recommendations of the Radiation Therapist Review are agreed and implemented.”

He added: “The HSE and the Minister for Health need to act decisively to avert a full-blown staffing crisis within cancer services. Our members are calling for special provision to deal with the recruitment and retention issues for radiation therapists due to their crucial role in the delivery of cancer services. They have also requested that sufficient dedicated support staff be placed in radiation therapy departments to help with patient flow and to support radiation therapists so more of their time can be focused on carrying out treatment.”

SIPTU to raise disparity in support for assaulted health workers at Oireachtas Committee

SIPTU representatives will raise the disparity in supports for assaulted health sector staff at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, tomorrow (Wednesday, 8th February). The Committee is meeting to discuss the safety and welfare of workers in the public health service.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “Our union welcomes the opportunity to address the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health so we can highlight some of the concerns of our members regarding their safety and welfare at work. We also want to use the opportunity to present some tangible solutions in this area.

“A key concern for our members is the disparity in financial supports available to healthcare workers based on their role within the public health service. Figures provided by the HSE demonstrate that all healthcare workers face a real threat of physical assault in the workplace. They also show that support staff, which includes healthcare assistants, porters, catering, cleaning and security staff, are the second biggest category impacted by serious physical assaults in the workplace after nurses.

“However, support staff only receive 25% of the financial supports afforded to allied health professionals, clerical officers and nursing staff, even if they are all assaulted in the same incident.

“No worker should have to face the threat of assault in the workplace. If an unfortunate incident does occur, it must be ensured that all policies designed to support workers should be based on equality of access and not grade.”

He added: “SIPTU will also raise the need to give financial assistance to healthcare workers who are diagnosed with Covid-19 or affected by Long Covid. While there was such a scheme in place for public service healthcare workers, it was withdrawn in July 2022.

“A temporary scheme is in place, but we have been advised that this will cease in July 2023. This is despite the fact that the EU Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work has confirmed the need to recognise Covid-19 as an occupational disease.”

“In addition, SIPTU representatives will raise the need for safe staffing levels, based on need, across all departments and concerns our members have expressed in relation to the HSE Dignity at Work policy.”