Strike action likely over staff shortages in Louth hospitals

A hospital corridor

Fórsa members at the Louth County Group of hospitals have backed industrial action, up to and including strike action, due to staff shortages across the hospital group.

UPDATE: Following a meeting with hospital management yesterday (Thursday 23rd March), the union awaits written communication from management, detailing proposed solutions to the recruitment issues raised by Fórsa, which the union’s Health and Welfare Executive Committee will consider.

The ballot took place due to an ongoing dispute because of staff shortages in Louth hospitals, and the failure of hospital management to recruit urgently needed staff.

Fórsa members backed the action by a margin of 98.4%, securing a mandate to engage in industrial action, up to and including strike action.

Ballot turnout was close to 60%, comprising of health and social care professionals (‘HSCPs’), clerical and administrative grades across the hospital group.

The Louth County Group of hospitals includes Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and the Cottage hospital in Drogheda, and Louth County Hospital in Dundalk.

Fórsa official Lynn Coffey said: “This ballot became necessary because Fórsa members are working in unsafe environments as a direct consequence of management inaction.

“Strike action is the action of last resort, but our members have been left with no other choice as demand for services continue to increase, while staff shortages place incredible pressure on staff. It can’t go on.

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“Fórsa has continued to raise the issue of declining numbers in these grades and professions since summer 2022.

“Management has failed to replenish exiting staff, seem happy to leave posts vacant and have ignored requests for additional staff made on a business needs basis from teams within the hospital group and Fórsa.

“Understaffing increases the health, safety and welfare risks in the workplace. In a healthcare setting, that risk extends to vulnerable patients. Despite this, management has failed to put in any real measures to protect staff or patients.

“Recruitment drives for other medical professions across the hospitals have delivered good and solid results. New clinical staff need support from Fórsa grades, such as Health and Social Care Professional therapy staff and administrative staff. Management inaction of any real recruitment of these grades has proved to be a serious problem.

“Fórsa members have continued to work within teams and departments experiencing staff shortages, working through breaks, covering vacant posts, and extending their working hours in order to meet the demands of service.

“Service demand across the hospital group has continued to increase. For example, the ambulance by-pass from Our Lady’s hospital has put added pressures onto the system within Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, a system which was already failing.

“While additional nursing staff were provided for to reflect the increase in emergency patients, no corresponding increase in therapist and admin staff has taken place. The system is stretched too thin,” she said.

Lynn said the union’s representatives will now consider next steps. She said the serving of notice of industrial action was now a matter of “when” not “if” and expects to serve notice in the coming weeks.