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Harney Misinformed or Mislead According to INO/PNA. 04/05/07

JOINT PRESS RELEASE, Friday May 4th, 2007

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, has been seriously mislead by her officials and the HSE if she continues to believe that the introduction of a 35 hour week for nurses and midwives will require an additional 4,000 nursing positions according to INO/PNA in a statement today. 

Minister Harney, in an interview yesterday, stated the reduction in the working week would require the employment of an additional 4,000 nurses by the HSE.  According to Dave Hughes, Deputy General Secretary of the Irish Nurses Organisation, this issue had been the subject of discussion in the recent NIB process and it was agreed, by both parties, that the reduction in hours could be achieved without such a dramatic increase in nursing numbers.  In fact, written documentation submitted by INO and PNA to the management side during the course of the discussions confirmed that they were not seeking an hour for hour replacement or the employment 4,000 additional nursing positions.  Professor Brendan Drumm had confirmed that between 10,000 and 12,000 nursing positions in management, community and day services could achieve the reduction in working hours through a reorganisation of work and without replacement costs.  Both HSE and the unions had accepted, as part of the negotiations, that the issue of replacement primarily arose at the staff nurse/midwife level and in services that were provided on a 24 hour / 7 day basis.  To continually suggest that 4,000 additional nurses would be required is grossly misleading. 

Mr. Hughes went on to question some of the other comments made by Minister Harney and pointed out that her assertion that Gardai worked 39 hours and would seek the same reduction as nurses was equally untrue as the current working week of the Garda is 36.25 hours per week as against 39 for the nurse/midwife.  Assertions made by the Minister relating to other grades in the public service were, according to Mr. Hughes, equally erroneous given the fact that the non nursing grades throughout the public service have never had a pay relationship with nurses and midwives and have their pay determined by a separate process known as parallel benchmarking.  The parallel benchmarking process, according to Mr. Hughes, relates to pay and hours of work of those grades to craft workers in private industry.  He rejected suggestions that there was an automatic knock- on effect of reducing the working week of nurses and midwives to other grades and he stated the conditions of nurses and midwives can only validly be compared with their peers in both health and the wider public service and they are clerical, administrative, technical, managerial and professional staff, all of whom work 35 hours and most of whom have their pay determined by the Public Service Benchmarking Body.  The legitimacy of that comparison has already been accepted by the Minister herself in Dáil Eireann and An Taoiseach, and Mr Hughes said “it was surprising that it was now being introduced as an argument against reducing the working week of nurses and midwives.” 

Mr. Hughes went on to describe as “spin and propaganda” suggestions that it would cost €200 million to reduce the working week by four hours and he claimed that any realistic assessment of the value of the reform package offered by INO and PNA in the course of the discussions would yield far in excess of that figure in any event and would vastly improve the quality of the health service.  “Many nurses and midwives are angry at the constant portrayal of their claims as being excessive and reflect on the €150 million wasted on the failed PPARS project and the other €30 million wasted on a financial system which was ultimately abandoned” he said.

Nurses and midwives are there for the people from the cradle to the grave.  They care for mothers and young babies, children, the elderly, the sick, the intellectually challenged, the physically challenged, those suffering from mental health problems and the dying. They only ask that they be valued for what they do without the constant suggestion that others who do other things should automatically benefit from any change experienced by nurses and midwives.  There are few in the workforce who can, and have, offered such a radical change to the Irish health service as has been put on the table by INO and PNA in the last ten days.  “The tragedy”, according to Mr Hughes, “is that the HSE have shown no ability to comprehend the value of that change and instead have chosen to alienate tens of thousands of loyal and dedicated staff and add to the stresses of an already beleaguered health service crying out for radical reform.



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