Belfast Telegraph

Staff blast politicians for leaving them 'overworked to the point of exhaustion'

Paramedics who joined the strike action at Altnagelvin Area Hospital
Paramedics who joined the strike action at Altnagelvin Area Hospital
Brenda Stevenson
Sinead Kerrigan
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A nurse with close to 40 years of service said the public support meant "everything" as he joined hundreds of NHS front line staff in strike action across the Western Trust.

Scheduled appointments were cancelled across many services. However, cancer and emergency services were not affected.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) took strike action for the first time and joined their colleagues in the Unite and Unison unions on the picket line at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.

Among them, RCN member Kevin Bell, who is set to retire next month after 37 years, said staff are "overworked to the point of exhaustion".

He said: "We deserve the respect and dignity of pay parity with our colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales and our patients deserve to be treated by clinicians who are not overworked and stressed to the point of exhaustion. We don't want to be on this picket line getting battered with the wind and rain, but it is clear the public is on our side and that means everything."

Also from the RCN, 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 at the end of the day there needs to be a safe level of staffing to keep the patients safe."

Speech therapist and Unite spokeswoman Brenda Stevenson said she was on the picket line because she and her colleagues have been brought to their knees by the lack of pay parity and workload.

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

"We are on our knees and took no pleasure in calling this strike. When we were cancelling clinics and calling parents to say we can't see your child they were telling us to go for it, we are 200% behind you."

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

Porters including Stuart Ward were not on official strike but were on the picket line.

He said: "We see the pressure the nurses are under and all the work they do that they don't get paid for. This strike had to happen and we all agreed that if one is out we are all out."

A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said its priority was patient safety and apologised for any inconvenience caused.

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