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.”

SIPTU criticises Galway University Hospital’s failure to fully utilise Health Care Assistants

SIPTU representatives have criticised the management of Galway University Hospital for its failure to fully utilise Health Care Assistants (HCAs) in the provision of direct patient care in its temporary emergency department during a period of intense pressure in the facility.

SIPTU Organiser, Yvonne McGrath, said: “Our HCA members are ready, willing and able to use their skills to provide direct patient care. They feel frustrated that their expertise and skillset is not being recognised and utilised to maximum effect in order to assist with patient care within the emergency department and broader hospital.

“SIPTU representatives and hospital management had engaged under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, on 20th July last year, concerning issues related to the role of HCAs. On that occasion it was agreed that HCAs should no longer be carrying out certain functions, that were inappropriate to their role, within the emergency department and that support services staff would be used to carry out these functions.

“Since then, there has been no agreement on how hospital support staff will be engaged to support HCAs in their work. SIPTU representatives have now referred this matter back to the WRC. However, hospital management is yet to confirm it will attend a further WRC convened meeting.”

She added: “Unfortunately, the management of Galway University Hospital is not engaging with our union with any degree of urgency to resolve this matter. Our members are ready, willing and able to use their skills to provide direct patient care with the support of their colleagues in support services.”

SIPTU member and HCA at Galway University Hospital, Martina Burke, said: “HCAs and all staff are under significant pressure in the emergency department. However, their problems pale in comparison to those of patients who in many incidences are waiting for hours for treatment. We are willing to sit down with management to try and resolve the issues that are adversely impacting staff and patients in the emergency department. However, we need our employer to engage with us and confirm its availability to attend the WRC if these matters cannot be resolved.”

Campaign Update – Valuing Care Valuing Community

Dear Member,

We write to you with an important update regarding the Valuing Care Valuing Community Campaign.

The story so far:
Members will be aware of the history regarding the campaign for pay justice in the Section 39, Community and Voluntary sectors.

Most recently, in July of last year workers in a number of community organisations engaged in strike action in pursuit of decent pay within their sector. This was followed by further action in September 2022 in which thirteen Section 39 agencies and community organisations took part in a day of strike action in pursuit of pay justice.

The actions were deemed to be a success. A number of high-profile public representatives publicly endorsed the campaign and called for a mechanism for addressing pay within the sector. In October, there was support across the Dáil for a Labour Party motion which called for support for the Valuing Care, Valuing Community Campaign. At the time Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Anne Rabbitte spoke in support of a process, under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, to address the long-standing pay issue within these organisations.

SIPTU supported the call for the use of the WRC and referred the matter for conciliation in October 2022. The Union maintained pressure on all parties to attend the WRC and honour the government’s commitment to resolve this long standing pay dispute through talks. The Union confirmed to employers our members’ willingness to take further action in progression of their claim, if necessary.

Campaign Update:
There was initial resistance by relevant government agencies and departments to attend. However, only this week it was confirmed by the HSE that it would attend talks, bringing us one step closer to resolving the dispute. The Department of Social Protection has confirmed its availability to attend the WRC and an engagement is scheduled for next week.

It is important to note that the relevant parties only agreed to attend the WRC when they realised that our members, with the support of their Union, SIPTU, would accept nothing less than their fight for pay justice to be treated as anything other than a priority.

We understand that a date for talks will be issued shortly and we will endeavour to keep our members updated with regards to any developments on the campaign.

SIPTU will revert to its members in Section 39, Community and Voluntary organisations on possible next steps, if sufficient and timely progress is not made on this claim.

It is important that you speak to your colleagues about the value of being in the Union and join SIPTU as we progress the matter of pay justice in your sector.

In solidarity,

Kevin Figgis
Divisional Organiser
Health Division

Adrian Kane
Divisional Organiser
PAC Division

SIPTU seeks urgent meeting with Minister and HSE on safe staffing levels in CAMHS

SIPTU representatives have written today (Tuesday, 24th January) to the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, and the management of the HSE requesting an urgent meeting to discuss safe staffing levels in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “We welcome the publication of the Interim Report on the Independent Review of the Provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the State by the Inspector of Mental Health Services and that the HSE has accepted its findings. This interim report indicates that there are issues regarding safe staffing within the service that need to be addressed.

“It notes that there is currently no benchmark in place for the safe staffing of child and adolescent mental health services. The report also noted that low staff morale and burnout are issues and that some staff are working above their contracted hours, for no additional compensation, in order to provide therapeutic interventions.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives have recently raised concerns about staffing in CAMHS, particularly in the Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation. It’s clear that a focus now needs to be placed on establishing a safe staffing level for child and adolescent mental health services. In order to progress this issue we have written to the Minister of State and the HSE to seek an urgent meeting to discuss what must be done.”

SIPTU calls on Minister to end pandemic payment delay for non-HSE and Section 38 workers

SIPTU representatives have called for the intervention of the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to ensure that eligible health workers employed in private employments and Section 39 organisations receive their Pandemic Special Recognition Payment (PSRP) without further delay.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Pat Flannery, said: “Our members are aware that a limited number of Section 39 agencies have made these payments to their eligible workforce but many have not. It has been reported that more than half of eligible workers who do not fall under the remit of the HSE or Section 38 agencies have yet to receive their payment.

“Agencies that do not fall under the remit of the HSE or Section 38 of the Health Acts received guidance from KOSI Corporation, which has been commissioned by the Government to oversee the process, in November 2022, advising them of the eligibility criteria for the PSRP. The guidance also set out how these organisations could submit a claim for the funding in order to make the payment to their workers.

“The KOSI guidance explained that it was intended that funds would be made available to these organisations to pay the PSRP by the end of November 2022, as long they submitted accurate claim forms by 11th November of that month.

“These workers put their shoulder to the wheel and provided essential care during the darkest days of the pandemic. The services they provided included care to the vulnerable in the intellectual disability sector, care to our elderly in communities around the country and nursing home care.”

He added: “The fact that these workers have been kept waiting for payment of PSRP is unacceptable. We are calling for the Minister of Health to intervene and make sure that funds are released to make these payments. Workers in these essential services cannot be expected to wait any longer. The PSRP was announced by the Government in January 2022. Surely it is time for all the workers eligible for this payment to receive it as some form of recognition for the work they did to protect our society and communities at great personal risk.”

SIPTU raises serious concerns regarding staffing in CAMHS unit in Blackrock in Cork

SIPTU representatives have written to the management of the Eist Linn Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) inpatient unit regarding serious staffing issues at its facility in Bessborough, Blackrock, county Cork.

SIPTU Organiser, Natasha Linehan Treacy, said: “In the letter to management sent on Friday, 13th January, we note that four nursing staff have notified management of their intent to leave the service. When existing vacancies within the service are taken into consideration, that means there will be 11 whole time equivalent nursing vacancies within the Eist Linn inpatient unit.

“The current level of nursing vacancies within the Eist Linn inpatient unit is intolerable and is leading to heavy dependence on agency staff and the use of overtime within the unit. We have written to management to seek an urgent meeting on this issue. A comprehensive plan on how it is intended that management will address the level of nursing vacancies in the immediate term is essential.”

She added: “It is unacceptable for all our members in the unit that they are attempting to deliver a service with only 58% of nursing posts filled. This situation also speaks to broader staffing issues across the CAMHS service.”

SIPTU’s Ambulance Sector Expresses Solidarity with striking NHS ambulance crews

SIPTU’s Ambulance Sector has expressed solidary with NHS ambulance crews who are on strike today (January 11th) in the United Kingdom after talks failed to address GMB members’ concerns regarding pay.

SIPTU’s Sector Organiser for the Ambulance Sector, Ted Kenny, wrote to GMB Union Public Services National Secretary, Rachel Harrison, to advise that “we stand beside you all in your fight for an enhanced pay offer and wish you all the very best in achieving that goal.”

The letter follows a statement made by SIPTU on the challenges being faced by ambulance crews throughout the National Ambulance Service on Saturday the 7th of January. You can read that full statement here.