Belfast Telegraph

Health strike: Altnagelvin staff been 'brought to their knees by pay injustice'

Nurses on strike at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19
Nurses on strike at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19
Members of the RCN on strike at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19
Kieran McDermott from teh Ambulance Service who joined the strike action at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19
Nurse Andrew Doherty who joined the strike action at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19

BY DONNA DEENEY

A SPEECH therapist at the Western Trust taking part in the NHS strike action at Altnagelvin hospital said she was at the picket line because she and her colleagues “have been brought to our knees” by the lack of pay parity and workload.

Hundreds of frontline staff including member of the Royal College of Nursing, UNITE and Unison unions stood in the wind and rain at every hospital throughout the Western Trust area.

This is the first time the RCN has voted to take strike action and many did so with a heavy heart.

Among them, Sinead Kerrigan who has been a nurse for the past five years, said: “We are doing this for our patients as well as for parity esteem.

“If one member of staff goes off sick, the rest of us have to pick up the slack which means we don’t get finished when our shift is over, we don’t get breaks and the end of the day, there needs to be a safe level of staffing to keep the patients safe.”

Brenda Stevenson who works within the Speech Therapy services and member of Unite Union blames the politicians in Northern Ireland for the strike.

She said: “Our politicians are to blame for us being here today because they couldn’t get together and couldn’t see that we were entitled to the same pay as our colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales.

“We took no pleasure in calling this strike and last week, when we were cancelling clinics and calling parents to say ‘we can’t see your child’, they were telling us ‘go for it, we are 200 percent behind you’.

“That means so much, because we have been brought to our knees and it has got to the stage where we had no choice but to say ‘no more’.”

While members of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service control room were at the official picket line, their paramedic colleagues who were on duty to provide an immediate response to emergencies held their own protest beside their vehicles in the hospital ground.

RCN member Sinead Kerrigan who joined the strike action at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19
RCN member Sinead Kerrigan who joined the strike action at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19

Darren Armstrong has worked as a paramedic for the past ten years and has been with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service for a total of 18.

He said: “We are on duty, beside our vehicles ready to respond to emergency calls but we are standing solid with our NHS colleagues who are at the picket line.

“For years, we have been underpaid for the job we do.  In my opinion the fault lies at Storming, they haven’t doing their job for three years.

Staff on strike at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19
Staff on strike at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19

“To put bread on the table we have to take on extra shifts and that affects all aspects of life, moral at work is really low.

“Things are bad but hearing people sound their car and lorry horns as they go past shows us the public are behind up all the way.”

A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said: “Patients and service users that are directly affected have been contacted.  As ever our top priority is to ensure and maintain patient safety on Wednesday 18 December and over the coming week. Given the reduction in staffing levels anticipated across most disciplines, the Western Trust has regrettably taken the decision to cancel a wide range of non-emergency services.

Porters who refused to cross the picket lines at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19
Porters who refused to cross the picket lines at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19

“On this day our services will be focused on providing emergency services for patients in our hospitals and those at highest risk within our communities. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

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