Nurses may lose pay increases

Catherine Shanahan & Emily Beamont, Irish Examiner, May 2, 2005

Health managers are threatening to withhold pay increases due to nurses next month for failure to co-operate with the introduction of a new tier of health worker.

The Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) general secretary Liam Doran said they were told last week they might not get their next scheduled pay increase if they opposed the introduction of the new healthcare assistants.

“We view it as being a retaliatory strike arising from the A&E protest,” Mr Doran said.

The general secretary warned if the pay increase was withheld, it could lead to industrial action.

The INO believes the assistants, who are trained in areas such as hygiene and infection control, could be a valuable addition to the health service but has concerns over who will take responsibility for the tasks they carry out.

He said the area they were most concerned about was the involvement of assistants in the taking of vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate, and who would be responsible for any mistakes made.

“If you’re going to change the role of nurses and allocate jobs to healthcare assistants, who is still ultimately responsible? Employers haven’t answered that,” Mr Doran said.

Yesterday Brendan Mulligan, industrial relations chief for the Health Service Employers Agency (HSEA), said the assistants would be reporting to the nurses. He said there was no reason the new system could not work, that it was tried and tested all over Europe. However, Mr Doran said he feared the introduction of the healthcare assistants was viewed by the management as a cost cutting measure and an “emergency band aid” to solve the staffing crisis in the nursing profession.

The dispute will be discussed later this week at the INO’s AGM in Killarney, Co Kerry, as will a new Health Services Executive (HSE) plan to tackle the A&E crisis.

© Irish Examiner, 2005, Thomas Crosbie Media, TCH