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Editorial - It’s a question of respect

As I am writing this, negotiations between the government and all public service unions have recommenced in an effort to resolve all of the difficulties that have emerged following the government’s unilateral action of cutting the pay of all public servants including nurses and midwives.

The objective, behind the negotiations, is to agree a programme of change, for all areas of the public service including the health system, that would deliver more effective and responsive services for the citizens of Ireland. In turn these efficiencies would enable the government to reverse, over time, the unjust pay cuts and restore the agreed salary levels.

This may sound an easy agenda but, as you know only too well, our experience of management’s desire for change in the health service has all too often proved to be camouflage for reducing the numbers of frontline staff and lowering both the quality and quantity of healthcare. So, while we can all agree that change is necessary it cannot come about in a manner that compromises the ability of frontline health professionals, such as nurses and midwives, in adequately responding to the needs of the individual patient.

As for the question of pay, our position is quite simple in so far as we will always hold the view that what was done in January was unjustified, without precedent and will not, in any way, assist this country out of the current economic recession. It was a policy created and driven by employers who want the excuse, in following the bad example of government, that would allow them to cut the pay of all workers so as to protect, and increase, their profit margins in these admittedly difficult times. If a set of proposals emerge, from these discussions, then they will be put out for consideration and ballot of all INMO members in the weeks ahead.

This editorial is also being written in the days immediately following the public disclosure that over 57,000 X-rays, and 3,500 GP letters, were not dealt with efficiently, and appropriately, in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin. Let us be quite clear, from the very outset, in stating that what happened in Tallaght was unforgivable, inexplicable and unacceptable and has no place in any public health system. Secondly, and this is very important, it must also be stated that these grave omissions are not, in any way, the fault of hard working frontline staff. They are, instead, as a direct result of wholly inadequate management, the failure to accept accountability and a symptom of that recurring disease in our health system of senior general managers building empires to the benefit of no-one but themselves.

The self-interest, of senior managers in recent years has consistently taken precedence over delivering real change, where it matters, where frontline professionals meet and treat those in need.

In regard to both these issues, we have the complete absence of respect, for either patients or frontline staff, by senior management. This lack of respect is present at every level from hospital, to HSE, to the Department, and at political level. Senior management cannot secure the changes necessary to ensure a safe system of healthcare by imposing their agenda of change on staff. Instead they must be prepared to listen and learn, from frontline staff who know what the patient requires.

It is, therefore, a question of respect and listening to others rather than dictating change to a system you know precious little about. The coming days will tell us whether this simple, but important, reality is understood, in any way, by the self-enriching hierarchy that predominates at the current time.

Liam Doran
General Secretary, INMO

Editorial - It’s a question of respect
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Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (Cumann Altrai agus Ban Cabhrach na hEireann). The Whitworth Building, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7. T:0016640600 E:inmo@inmo.ie