Risk of further strike action as Cork ambulance crews prepare to protest outside Dáil

Risk of further strike action as Cork ambulance crews prepare to protest outside Dáil

Viv Forde, Mike O’ Reilly and Siobhán Kelleher from Cork protesting outside Leinster House earlier this year. Ambulance crews from across Cork and Ireland are to protest outside the Dáil next week as a dispute with the HSE escalates. Photo:Leah Farrell

AMBULANCE crews from across Cork and Ireland are to protest outside the Dail next week as a dispute with the HSE escalates.

The group will also hand over a petition calling for the HSE to recognise their union of choice, which has been signed by more than 10,000 people.

Protests are also to take place outside Irish Embassies in around 15 countries in solidarity with ambulance staff.

Ambulance crews have gone on strike on around 10 separate occasions so far this year, adding to the issues facing the health service.

The action centres on the refusal of the HSE to recognise the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA), a branch of the PNA, as the trade union of choice for more than 500 ambulance staff personnel.

NASRA had warned that unless the HSE recognise and negotiate with the union, its members would engage in 24 hour strike action. NASRA will protest outside the Dail on Wednesday, October 23.

A spokesperson for NASRA told The Echo that information stalls and meetings had resulted in a lot of support from the people of Cork for the would-be union.

He said that people are shocked at how ambulance staff are being treated not just by the HSE but by the government as well.

As well as plans for more protests and information stalls across Cork and further afield, the spokesperson warned that further strike action could be on the cards unless the HSE enter into meaningful talks.

He said that ambulance staff do not want to strike, particularly with winter approaching when acute services are expected to be under even more pressure, but that the blame for this lies with the HSE.

Sinead McGrath, chairperson of NASRA, had previously said that the union will look to step up its industrial action but aims to ensure that patients are not impacted the most.

She told The Echo recently that the possibility of rolling 24 hour strikes have been discussed.

Ms McGrath said the union’s members do not want to put patients in danger and that it is only the goodwill of ambulance crews responding to emergency calls while on strike that has propped up the service.

NASRA is hoping for engagement from the HSE and Department of Health representatives.

Meanwhile, two Cork ambulance crew members will be honoured for their bravery during Storm Ophelia at a ceremony this week.

Olive Murphy and James Hennessy, both members of the National Ambulance Service here in Cork, braved the elements of the fierce storm in 2017 to tend to an ill woman in a remote part of the Rebel County.

The woman found herself in a dangerous scenario when she was left without her supply of supplemental oxygen due to power cuts at a rural farm in Ballinascarthy, West Cork.

James Hennessy and Olivia Murphy risked their own lives in travelling to the woman’s aid, using hacksaws and crowbars to clear fallen trees from the roads in order to reach her.

The pair provided pre-hospital care for her before transporting her to Bantry General Hospital.

They will be recognised at The National Bravery Awards which take place in Dublin this Friday.

These are awards, which are given to people from all walks of life and all sections of society who carried out a deed of bravery with “an effort to save human life involving personal risk”.

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