Conference warns Government against any cuts to allowances – Enough is enough
The Annual Conference of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) in Athlone (Thursday) has been told that retirements in the Mental Health Services have resulted in “horrendous problems” in maintaining services across the country.
Speaking at the Conference, PNA General Secretary, Des Kavanagh said:
‘Government has turned a blind eye to the impact of those retirements on mental health care.
‘Because of our age profile very large numbers of our nurses have been able to retire, and they have gone in droves. Because our older nurses have been eligible to retire at 55 but could remain until reaching 65, it was our experience that up to 50% of those nurses would retire annually. However, now everyone goes.'
‘Some have gone to protect their pension entitlements but it must be acknowledged that such is the pressure, such is the low level of morale, and such is their sense of dissatisfaction that everyone on reaching 55 is pressing the escape button.'
Mr Kavanagh said although the Government argued that the retirement scheme had been forced on it, the facts was that the Troika had never told it to reduce frontline workers in the health services.
“In our mental health services it makes no sense. The approach being pursued by the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is blunt, unscientific, economically and socially insensitive . They are undermining of health care, jeopardise safe practice and will increase the economic cost of mental illness on the economy into the future.'
Vision for Change ---where now?
Reviewing the current state of Vision for Change, Mr Kavanagh said:
“The Government and HSE live a lie when it comes to mental health services and implementing Vision for Change. They cut acute beds, provide little of the services required to support that policy and then boast that they have successfully reduced admissions to mental health services.'
‘The Government tell us of the €35m extra they have committed to Mental Health this year. They won't say that that €35m., is only available after they cut a further € 60-70m from the services through retirements and savings. They will tell us of the recruitment of additional Social Care Professionals but ignore the need for nurses. more
It is the sad reality that for many in the mental health services the belief is that Vision has now lost momentum and is merely a vehicle for further betrayal.'
Resistance to cuts in allowances.
Mr Kavanagh said PNA members were already experiencing an assault on their allowances such as the Community Allowance which has been withdrawn under the Croke Park deal.
‘The suspension in payment, pending review, of other Allowances to staff newly qualifying is also contributing to the problems facing many nurses.
‘In some services we are now seeing nurses who are being asked to move from one location where they have an Allowance to an area where there is none. Others are then asked to replace them but are told they will not get the allowance which applied previously.
‘I am inundated with calls from nurses living in fear that any cut in allowances or premiums will leave them unable to pay their mortgage. Those same nurses are demoralised and worn out trying to maintain services while understaffed and under-resourced.
‘I believe we are at breaking point. I believe our members cannot and will not accept any further cuts in earnings without reacting in the most strident fashion.
‘I say to Government: Ignore the bleating of the ill-informed commentators and listen to the pain of your worn out nurses!
I say to Government: Hands off our Allowances which are few in number and very valuable and appropriate in recognising Qualifications and service demands such as exposure to violence and specialisation.
I say to Government: You are getting extraordinary value from this depleted and exhausted nursing workforce. Now, get off our backs.'
And I say to Minister Howlin in particular: ‘Enough is enough.'
PNA Chairman, Liam McNamara said the 2012 HSE Service Plan had acknowledged the disproportionate impact that the staffing moratorium is having on mental health services.
‘I am now calling on the Minister to lift the embargo on employment of nurses and I am again calling on the Minister to establish a National Mental Health Service Directorate which is a central recommendation of “Vision for Change” which when putting forward a rationale for such a body stated that some of the consequences of not having such a body has been the failure to achieve and sustain National Mental Health Budgets.'
Media Contacts: Derek Cunningham 086-2430535