SIPTU met with HSE Management this week to further discuss the situation regarding the increase in activity in the country’s acute hospitals. Below is a summary of that meeting.
The HSE provided the following update to the meeting:
• Attendance at ED is considerably higher than the same timeframe in 2022. (10,500 additional presentations)
• Highest ever recorded attendance of 75+ years patients.
• Influenza cases continue to rise
• RSV cases are evidencing a decrease
• COVID cases are steady
• The HSE acknowledged the work being undertaken by staff in all grades of the health service during this difficult period.
• The meeting was advised the National Crisis Management Team is meeting every week and local reviews are ongoing daily.
• The HSE accepted additional capacity is required in the private sector & community care.
• They advised they are engaging on a national agreement with private hospital representatives, but this has not been concluded. They stated funding has been made available.
• The meeting was informed of transfers being undertaken of medical patients to private healthcare.
• Site visits are ongoing across the country.
• They are seeking to increase resourcing over 24hrs and weekend service is being looked at.
In response, SIPTU and fellow health unions outlined the following:
• We stated it was unacceptable that many sites had failed to have any local engagement with union representatives on proposed changes to service provision.
• We advised we could not accept forced outcomes which sought to dismantle existing terms and conditions of employment of our members.
• Any proposal should come from local consultation and agreement with our membership & their representatives.
• We had sought a document from the HSE outlining the challenges and the perceived solutions. This was still awaited.
• We sought clarity what supports would be put in place for healthcare workers during this crisis, both those in work and those who have taken ill due to a workplace sourced infection.
• We asked for clarity on the arrangement with the private sector. What level of additional bed capacity, and where, is expected to come from that agreement? What level of additional support has been sought for the National Ambulance Service and diagnostic services?
The HSE confirmed:
• They are seeking to develop a document which will be shared with the unions.
• A management meeting was happening this evening to respond to the union call for supports for healthcare workers during this crisis. Further clarification would issue on this shortly we were advised.
• There would be no ‘ripping up’ of existing agreements with unions. Any proposal would have to recognise existing agreements. Local dialogue was key and would be supported at national level by the HSE.
• Agreement with private sector is not finalised. Local sites are required to identify what they need.
• Management accepted demands could not be made of staff. While a request may be made, subject to the agreed terms, acceptance would be on a voluntary basis only.
• Management also accepted any proposal for change to provide weekend cover could not simply be achieved by moving existing 5 day staff across a 7 day pattern.
• Management stated they had not received a request internally for additional capacity from the private sector for diagnostics.
The meeting adjourned and management agreed to revert on several key points asap. This includes:
• Provision of a composite document
• Clarity on the supports which will be provided to staff during this phase.
A further meeting was proposed for early next week. The date and time for this meeting is to be confirmed.