Further strikes are inevitable Cork nurses and midwives say

Further strikes are inevitable Cork nurses and midwives say
A group of nurses taking part in the nurses strike at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Picture: David Keane.

Threats of further strike action and disruption Darragh Bermingham Nurses and midwives in Cork have said further strike action and disruption to the health service is inevitable unless the government step in and address their concerns.

Hundreds of nurses and midwives across Cork took part in a 24-hour strike today as more than 40,000 joined the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) industrial action around Ireland.

With further strikes planned for next week and a three-day strike in a fortnight, nurses and midwives have called on the government to address their concerns or risk further disruption.

Aisling Fox and Ben Aherne of Flannery's Bar, with soup for nurses during their strike at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Picture: David Keane.
Aisling Fox and Ben Aherne of Flannery's Bar, with soup for nurses during their strike at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Picture: David Keane.

“The sector is understaffed and underfunded,” said Laura O’Connell, a nurse in the children's ward of Cork University Hospital.

“A lot of the time you feel unsupported and alone and certainly not getting paid enough for it.

“We could have six children for just one nurse,” she explained, speaking outside CUH today.

“We'll be here as long as it takes for the government to listen to us and to give us and the service what it needs.

“It is very frustrating to see the government sitting back and doing nothing especially when they're a lot warmer than we are here on strike.” Being blamed by the government for the cancellation of services yesterday was “extremely frustrating” for nurses and midwives in the sector, according to CUMH midwife, Naomi O’Donovan.

Katie Flannery of Subway with some food for nurses Liz Ryan, Michelle O'Dwyer and Rose Morrissey, during their strike at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Picture: David Keane.
Katie Flannery of Subway with some food for nurses Liz Ryan, Michelle O'Dwyer and Rose Morrissey, during their strike at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Picture: David Keane.

“They're not going to be happy with us but equally we're not happy with them,” she said.

“We're here for the patients but where are they, where's their sense of duty to the people of Ireland that are paying taxes for this health service?

“This service is stretched and totally inadequate,” she added.

“They have a moral responsibility to fulfill their role to the people of Ireland and we've a responsibility to provide safe care.

“We can't to that if they tie our hands behind our back and don't provide safe staffing levels.

We'll never get safe levels or recruit enough staff unless we get pay parity because if you're going to earn thousands more in a different country, why would you stay here,” asked Ms O’Donovan “They've managed to spend, or waste rather, plenty of money on the new children’s hospital.

“As a citizen of Ireland, I wonder where my taxes are being spent,” she said.

“We're the backbone of the health service, it can't survive without us, and it's about time the government realised that.” “They're giving out about today but we'll be out here again next week for two days and three more the week after, to let them see how much we're worth.” 

Fellow midwife Triona Coleman said the strike action is necessary to ensure patients get the best possible care.

“We're sometimes not able to give them the care we want to all of the time because of staff shortages,” she explained.

“It's really disheartening to listen to the undergraduates that are training and postgrads that are training to be midwives because they don’t have that enthusiasm that you might expect because they're under so much pressure.

“They don't want to stick around when they qualify then,” she added.

“Staff that qualified just five years ago are now some of the most senior staff which isn't how it should be.

“We've lost so many senior midwives.” Ms Coleman saw first hand how here colleagues are impacted by staff shortages when she gave birth to her two children.

“I've been in the system and have seen my colleagues, who are still amazing, struggling,” she said.

“It's crippling to be honest.

“We don't want to be out here, I'd prefer to be inside looking after women because that's what we should be allowed to do,” she added.

“All the signs are that we will be out here next week as well.” Medical surgical nurse at MUH, Aisling Fahey said:

“If the government can’t understand what’s bringing us out here on strike then we have to escalate it to show how much ww matter in the service.” Norma Twomey, who has been working at MUH for around 40 years, said conditions on the ground are terrible.

“One nurse asked this morning: would you ask two bus drivers to drive five buses?” she said.

“That’s what the situation is like here.” Michael Bradley was out striking after completing a night shift, still in his scrubs.

“It’s about parity,” he said.

“There are people with similar qualifications who are paid far better.

“Meanwhile, nurses are being treated like low-grade servants really,” he added.

“We’re striking not just for ourselves but for the nurses and staff who will come after us, who are qualifying now after the very best of education, who are just being trained for export essentially.

“We’re not getting the benefit of them here where we have huge shortages.

“They’re no sooner qualified than they’re getting the hell out of here, heading to Australia, the UK, United Arab Emirates or wherever.

“The system is falling apart here and the government won’t even talk to us.

“In my view, strike action will have to be escalated because what Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar are saying indicates they’re taking no notice of us.

Fellow MUH nurse, Ethan O’Regan, who is also a student intern, laid out a stark warning for the HSE and government.

“The government need to pay a decent wage and encourage some nurses to come back and make up the numbers on the wards,” he said.

“In the last two years, the INMO surveys show that 74 or 75% of interns leave every year and I'm sure this year will be no different unless something is done."

“I know from talking to my own classmates, most are talking about leaving the country but some are talking about leaving the sector altogether, getting out of the acute hospital sector,” he added.

“There’s an easier life out there to be lived not working in the acute hospital sector where you’re underpaid and it’s understaffed.

“At the minute there seems to be zero response from government so the other strikes could certainly go ahead but I hope it doesn’t come to that.

“I hope the government realise that there are 40,000 nurses protesting here, advocating for the safety of their patients, and that we deserve better conditions.

“It’s about time the government acknowledge us and come to the table to negotiate.

“It shouldn’t have come to this.”

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