Article from the May 2005 edition, the Socialist
paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in Ireland.
Accident & Emergency crisis
Token protests not enough
by Ger Hughes
THE PROBLEMS in the country's A&E departments are getting worse with an average of 280 per day on trolleys. The Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) held a month of lunchtime protests at 18 hospitals in April. The protests initially received a lot of publicity and sparked the now infamous attempt by Joe Duffy and Ben Dunne to provide portakabins for the Mater A&E in Dublin.
While the Socialist Party supported these protests, we pointed out that much more needed to be done if the government was going to be forced to take emergency action.
Harney and the government have repeated their mantra of their tenpoint programme and the HSEs has threatened to withhold a 3.5% pay rise due to nurses from 1 June, with the spurious claim that nurses have not been facilitating "health reforms". The threat was issued on the eve of the INO conference. An emergency motion was passed at conference that stated "the INO will take whatever action deemed necessary to secure its members' pay rise". The concern is that for the leadership of the INO this will mean more lobbying and not real action on pay and the A&E crisis.
The INO should withdraw from the so-called "partnership" process with the HSE, and ballot its members for industrial action, including strike action to force the government to declare a national emergency in the health service. A campaign, not of token lunchtime protests, but of industrial action involving all health workers and mobilising the universal support that exists in the communities would force Harney to act.