Nurses braved the wind and rain to picket outside Craigavon Hospital yesterday (Wednesday) during their second day of strike action.
Rita Devlin, Head of Professional Development at the Royal College of Nurses and a registered nurse, said not all the nurses were out on strike as many, including those working in Accident and Emergency and in the children’s and adult intensive care units were exempt from taking part in the strike.
Other health colleagues from Unison have already taken part in five days of industrial action but are in talks about taking more action in the next two weeks.
Ms Devlin said: “The RCN have not taken industrial action in 103 years. Our nurses are here.
“They are losing pay for being on strike, so I think that should tell the level of determination there is for the nurses’ voices to be heard. They have been raising concerns about patients’ safety for at least a decade. Nobody listened. Finally when we went out on strike on December 18th they started to listen.
“We were told yesterday (Tuesday) by the Chief Executives that we have won. We haven’t won anything. There is not a penny extra for nurses.”
Regarding the Chief Executives’ joint statement calling on the nurses to pause their strike action as any action would put them over the tipping point, Ms Devlin said nurses had been saying for years that the system is already over the tipping point.
She said that a nurses’ summit five years ago identified that the system was at crisis point. “We were promised the sun, moon and stars at that time and that things would be different. Nothing is different.
“We don’t accept that our nurses are responsible for the situation that the health service has found itself in,” she said, adding that the responsibility lies with the decision makers in the Department of Health and local politicians.
“They are the people responsible to ensure that we are properly resourced.”
Ahead of Wednesday and Friday’s strike action by nurses, a joint statement by Chief Executives said: “We recognise that staff have not taken industrial action lightly and have worked closely with Trusts to ensure that the most essential services have been maintained.
“However, given the current circumstances, it is difficult to see how further strike action this week can advance their cause.”