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The healthcare crisis is escalating as the nurses and midwives remain on strike for another day this week.

The impact on tens of thousands of patients is causing chaos, as members of the public are asked not to use out of hours GP services as hundreds of doctors gather for a protest in Dublin.

News has since emerged that a rally will take place this Saturday, allowing members of the public to support the nurses and Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Over 35,000 nurses and midwives voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action late last year, with their first 24-hour stoppage taking place on January 30 and second strike occurring yesterday.

The Facebook post reads; "Join the nurses' protest, called by the INMO, this Sat 12.30pm Parnell Square Dublin. Leo Varadkar and the Fine Gael led government are refusing to negotiate with the nurses."

It continues, "They are ignoring the huge public support for their legitimate claims. Most of us know that nurses deserve equality of treatment with other professional grades, better pay will help ease the recruitment crisis and that means better patient care in our hospitals."

"Nurses do not want to strike – they would prefer to care for their patients. We can help by turning our sympathy into a major display of solidarity." it concludes, calling on the public to text their numbers to join the rally at the Garden of Remembrance.

Further strike action is expected to take place on February 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, and 21, which is sure to affect a huge amount of patients.

Patients are being asked by the National Association of GP Co-ops to travel to emergency departments, or to wait to see their own GP if any ailment is experienced.

Other disruptions include the cancellation of outpatient appointments, non-urgent surgery, and respite, rehabilitation, and day centre services. An estimated 50,000 patients in the past week were affected.

Another strike is expected tomorrow, with up to 75,000 people likely to be affected. 

As of last night, there appears to be little hope of resolving the pay dispute, with the INMO accusing the Government of “recycling” ideas and calling on them to “come to the table unconditionally”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted that direct contact should have been made with nursing unions regarding further talks at the Workplace Relations Commission to resolve their dispute, instead of through a press release.

He responded to critique from  Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who claimed the statement was an "appalling and a pathetic way" to approach the dispute.

Yesterday, the Fine Gael Government issued a statement saying it was willing to engage in talks on issues other than pay to try to overcome the nurses' strike.

General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Phil Ni Sheaghdha said the Government had not communicated directly with the unions.

Adult mental health services are also coming under huge strain today and tomorrow due to a ban on overtime, including night rosters, as members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) engage in industrial action. 

Doctors will join the disagreement by heading to the Dáil to protest at conditions and pay cuts, which was organised by the National Association of General Practitioners.

Other aspects of the healthcare crisis involve a lack of beds, and the disastrous cost of the new National Paediatric Hospital, which sum now stands at €1.7 billion.

Feature image: Extra.ie

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Picketing officially began this morning for the nurses' strike, which is only the second time in 100 years that the group have carried out work stoppages.

According to The Journal, three-quarters of Irish people support the nurse's 24-hour strike, which is being carried out over an apparent recruitment and retention issue.

Nurses and midwives across the county will be out on the picket line today, fighting for pay and better working conditions at hospitals and private clinics nationwide.

Nursing unions are seeking pay parity with other health service grades, such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has announced that talks which were held at the Labour Court on Monday night did not lead to any breakthroughs.

The INMO has over 40,000 members, and announced the strikes earlier in January. Over 90 percent of members which were polled voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot held in November.

According to nurses, increasing their pay is the only way to retain nurses, and this would improve working conditions, as well as the recruitment and retention crisis among members.

The government has expressed it's concern over pay rises for nurses outside of the broader public sector pay agreement reached last year, and has refused to give in to the nurses' demands.

The strikes have gone ahead after the Labour Court claimed it would not intervene in the dispute in a formal way, as the government are anxious that other industries will also request pay rises if the nurses obtain their requested 12 percent rise.

A Claire Byrne LiveTheJournal.ie poll of 1,000 adults by Amárach Research found huge support for the nurses' action, with 74 percent of participants expressing agreement with the 24-hour strike. 

Only 17 percent said no, while 9 percent were unsure.

Members of the public have been requested by the HSE only to attend emergency services in hospitals if it is totally necessary.

Liam Woods, HSE national director of acute operations, commented; “We would appeal that patients would only attend the emergency services if absolutely essential."

In emergencies, there will be an emergency response, and any patients whose appointments or surgeries have been cancelled will achieve priority in the weeks following the strike.

The INMO has also said that further strikes will take place on the February 5 and 7, and then February 12, 13 and 14 if an agreement cannot be reached. 

Feature image: Limerick Leader

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The helpline which was set up by the HSE to offer information on unplanned pregnancies to women was reportedly "busy but not overwhelmed" on it's first day yesterday.

The HSE set up the MyOptions helpline in order to act as the main referral path for women seeking abortion services.

On the first day of operation services available nationwide, 20 women sought an abortion according to GPs who have agreed to carry out the services.

The exact level of demand will not be known yet for another number of weeks.

The Irish Times reports that it will be next week at least until the first terminations can be carried out, as a result of the three-day 'cooling-off' period.

The first cases which were referred to doctors ranged from upwards of four weeks' gestation.

In terms of cases which are close to the 12-week limit, they will be facilitated with same-day appointments at the nearest maternity unit.

The flow of Irish women who are travelling to the UK for abortion services is expected to continue, though at a reduced level, as abortions over 12 weeks are not permitted under Irish law except under highly limited circumstances.

The Minister for Health will be notified of the amount of terminations performed within 28 days. 

A number of minor teething issues have arisen involving blood testing procedures and ultrasound provision.

Simon Harris has said;

“The level of preparedness varies, but the initial experience with the HSE’s helpline has been very positive."

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Almost 687,000 patients are waiting for treatment from Irish public hospitals, according to RTE.

This is a record high, according to the National Treatment Purchase Fund, who are responsible for the collection, collation and publication of Inpatient and day case waiting lists.

This is an increase of almost 9,500 on last month. 

Galway University Hospital has the longest waiting list in the country. 

The Galway University Hospital outpatient waiting list has 38,501 individuals on it. 

The majority of these have been waiting less than three months for treatment. 

The Mater Hospital, Dublin, Cork University Hospital and Waterford University Hospital also have extremely long waiting lists. 

Most patients are waiting to be seen by a consultant for the first time, and the majority are based in outpatient clinics. 

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There is concern across the country for cancer patients this morning, after a warning that hospitals are running low on chemotherapy drugs.

Baxter Healthcare, the only supplier of the drugs, has only been able to provide a limited supply of the product in recent weeks.

Several specialists are readjusting treatments because of the lack of supplies, according to The Irish Independent.

A spokeswoman said they are currently dealing with 'a temporary supply constraint' of compounded chemotherapy products.

These product are provided to many public and private hospitals in Ireland.

'We are doing all we can to restore production capacity as quickly as possible and minimise the impact to patients.'

'We are working with other Baxter compounding units in the UK to identify if any extra capacity can be utilised,' she added.

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