Ireland's tottering health service was plunged deeper into crisis last night with hospital consultants threatening to disrupt Health Minister Mary Harney's plans, to recruit 1,300 consultants under a new contract.
The Irish Nurses Organization (INO) and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) representing around 40,000 nurses in total, plan to target five centers tomorrow in phase two of their planned work stoppages.
In the meanwhile, talks between members of the National Implementation Body (NIB) on the possibility of bringing nurses and employers back to the negotiating table ended in failure. A source close to the talks was quoted: "It was not a good meeting. It was not a good atmosphere. It does not look very good in terms of dispute resolution."
Accordingly, the nurses want a 10 percent pay rise and a shorter working week. They argue they are entitled to a reduced 35-hour week, which would bring them into line with other health professionals. The protest has been on since April 2nd.
Counterpoises Health Minister Mary Harney that, reducing the nurses' working week would require an additional 4,000 nurses in the system. "This is something we certainly could not contemplate," she said.
In the meantime, one of the centers to be targeted - Beaumont Hospital, said it would meet with the INO strike committee tomorrow morning to finalize contingency arrangements for the work stoppage.
It said while it hopes to provide services as normal, the stoppage may cause some delays to patient services.