AMBULANCE crews across Cork and Ireland are to carry out a 24-hour strike next week, it has been revealed.
Recent days of strike action centres on the refusal of the HSE to recognise the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA), a branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), as the trade union of choice for more than 500 ambulance staff personnel.
NASRA had warned of 24-hour strike action in the near future, but hope the HSE will step in and negotiate with them.
A member of the union told The Echo that a 24-hour strike will take place next week, but that the union is yet to decide on a date.
He added that contingency plans would be in place for emergency cases in the event of a 24-hour strike but that transfers would not take place during the industrial action.
Meanwhile, ambulance staff including an advanced paramedic have been suspended from work in a Cork town for more than a year and no progress has been made in their case, it has been revealed.
Two ambulance crew members in Macroom were suspended in May last year after standing themselves down due to fatigue following a 12 hour shift.
One member of the crew cited health and safety concerns just after a 12-hour shift had ended. They were both put on administrative leave which is supposed to be without prejudice.
The two members were also put on basic pay despite the fact they had not yet been found guilty of anything.
No investigation has been held yet despite the fact it is supposed to do so within four to six weeks after an incident.
The Echo also understands that the suspended members also had their email accounts suspended by the HSE before protesting and having them reinstated.
Sources told The Echo that no timeline has been set for the investigation, and that ambulance services across Cork are constantly understaffed.
One NAS member said the HSE are punishing the crew for being part of NASRA. The HSE has been accused of trying to make an example of the two Cork ambulance staff.
“They’re being punished and made an example of to put others off joining NASRA,” a source told The Echo.
“There’s been no update from the HSE on any sort of investigation, and it’s going on 11 months now.”
Cork TD Mick Barry described the suspensions as a “scandal”. “It is not an accident in my opinion that the suspended crew are members of NASRA,” he added.
The two controversial staff suspensions in Cork have also been raised in the Dáil in recent months, highlighting issues within the National Ambulance Service.