NURSES are threatening a clash with Health Minister James Reilly over plans to use lower-paid staff in an effort to save €80m.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has branded the initiative a “full frontal attack” on front line staff and the quality of patient services.
It said that plans were outlined last week to substitute experienced support staff with interns, and replace professional staff with inexperienced staff in older person and disability services.
The INMO has now instructed members to refuse to co- operate with the latest cost- cutting measures.
In a letter to 700 nurse managers, INMO general secretary Liam Doran directed nurses to object to the use of inexperienced staff to reduce costs - on top of cuts already agreed under the Haddington Road deal.
But the HSE has denied that the claims made by the INMO will compromise patient care.
Its Director of Human Resources Barry O’Brien said the latest round of cuts will help to deliver the €290m savings agreed under the Haddington Road agreement.
He added that the new move is a safe and appropriate measure, but is being painted in a negative light.
Mr O’Brien said the HSE will put in place the best mixture of staff to deliver the best quality of care, and plans to recruit junior doctors, including from eastern Europe, in order to meet its obligations under the European Working Time Directive.
But the INMO has stressed its belief that patients could suffer under the new move.
The letter notes that if any incident were to occur, directors of nursing would be central to a statutory inquiry and, in many previous instances, have been named.
“Directors will be examined in respect of what actions they took to prevent this scenario developing when any inevitable inquiry takes place,” the letter warns.
It comes after the HSE revealed that there would be an €80m shortfall in the target for savings of €290m if the new cost-cutting measures weren’t implemented.
The nurses’ union has written to Dr Reilly seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the proposals.
It also called emergency meetings around the country to resist the “damaging plans”.
Mr Doran said the proposed move by Minister Reilly would mean the de-skilling of the front line hospital workforce and result in managers taking decisions to close beds.