No member of the INMO, public servant or PAYE taxpayer is unaware of the economic crisis facing this country. Every morning we rise we are inundated with news about a Euro crisis, a banking crisis, a global market crisis and the threat of economic meltdown.
Nurses and midwives in this country, alongside all public servants, have already more than played their part in efforts to correct our finances. As we all know, between pension levies, pay cuts and the universal social charge all public servants have suffered in excess of a 20% income loss in the past two years. In addition, we have the crude and damaging recruitment moratorium which has seen a reduction of 2,700 plus nursing/midwifery posts, together with the loss/reduction of other ward support and other frontline staff.
All of these issues, together with the repeated mantra of having to do more, with less, are encapsulated in the Croke Park Agreement. The Agreement, in return for radical change and reform, gave public servants, including nurses and midwives, protection from further pay cuts and/or compulsory redundancies.
The problems in EDs across the country, particularly in Limerick recently, have brought to the fore the very reasonable question can ‘Croke Park’ protect public services and not just reform them?
This question arises from the simple fact that this Organisation’s members in the ED in Limerick, of whom we should all be very proud, commenced a campaign of action which was not about their pay and conditions but was all about patient safety and reducing clinical risk. Their concerns flow directly from the fact that individually and collectively, they felt the clinical environment was unsafe, and could not go unchallenged. They did not want an improvement in their pay and conditions, they only sought that patients would be cared for properly, with dignity and in the manner required.
Notwithstanding this reality HSE management once again showed its ineptness by refusing to examine the issues of clinical risk but, instead, citing their staff, our members, as being in breach of Croke Park and its ban on industrial action. Fortunately the Central Implementation Body, established to monitor the Agreement, quite correctly declined to consider the question of whether it was a breach, or not, but simply referred the matter back to the Health Implementation Body. It also reminded all parties, that the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court, should be utilised in full to resolve any issue.
As you will see, elsewhere in this journal, matters have moved on in Limerick and we are currently in a four-week interim phase following the allocation of additional hours to the ED, arising from intervention by the Labour Relations Commission.
However this degree of progress cannot be allowed to cloud the initial response by the HSE, which was to immediately attack the staff for standing up for their patients and best practice, rather than acknowledging the clinical risk.
So, in essence, the past few weeks have shown that if Croke Park is to survive then it must not only deliver radical reform, where required, but it must also show it is capable of protecting essential public services from cuts which are unsafe for patients and service users.
The INMO will certainly be asking this question, in every fora, in the coming weeks. We can only accept and co-operate with change, which, while reforming, also protects the patient and the health professional, in the frontline. So, Croke Park must deliver reform, but it must also protect, and we will certainly watch the response, of government and HSE management in the weeks ahead in light of the experience in Limerick.
Finally, on behalf of every nurse and midwife in Ireland, I want to again place on record our respect and admiration for our colleagues, in the ED in Limerick, who spoke up and spoke out. They are an example of best practice to all of us.
General Secretary, INMO
|Editorial - Croke Park must protect as well as reform|