Belfast Telegraph

Minister launches day to mark achievements of emergency personnel

Minister for Health Simon Harris feted front line emergency services while admitting the health sector had a staff retention problem.

Minister for Health Simon Harris celebrated front line emergency services on Wednesday while admitting the health sector had a staff retention problem.

The launch of a new national day to recognise the frontline and emergency services workers takes place on Saturday September 1.

The minister met with representatives from Ambulance, Gardai, RNLI, Civil Defence and a range of other services to celebrate the hard work carried out 365 days a year.

Speaking at the launch in Dublin Castle, the minister hailed the work of emergency services.

Minister for Health Simon Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I’ve been working with colleagues here from emergency front line services since I became Minister for Health, and they have been arranging a parade where members of emergency front line services take part and showcase the excellent work that they do on a daily basis.

“They came to me and the Taoiseach and asked that the Government recognise this as an official day where we commemorate and thank our emergency services, and it’s a request the Government is happy to attend.”

Pressed on the issue that over 40,000 nurses have set a deadline for a pay rise, and could strike if their pay demands are not met in 2019, the minister said everyone should respect labour protocols.

“I’m a big believer in process and I think process is very important when it comes to industrial relations.

“We have a process that the Government established in relation to the Public Services Pay Commission, specifically looking at recruitment and retention.

“I am long on the record that when it comes to the retention of health care professionals we have a very challenging situation.

Minister for Health Simon Harris with Irish wolfhounds Darcy (left), mascot to the ambulance service, and Seodin, mascot to the Dublin fire brigade (Brian Lawless/PA)

“In the two years I have been Health Minister, I have visited facilities and met with doctors and nurses, and we do have a retention challenge.

“We asked the Public Sector Pay Commission to explore how best to address those challenges.

“I haven’t seen the report yet, as its finalising its work, I would expect that my colleague Minister (Paschal) Donohoe will bring that report to government in September, when he receives it.

“My understanding of the agreement is there would be four weeks for engagement between union movement and government after that.

“So there is a way to go here in terms of working our way through process and the prudent thing for any minister and any union to do is to read the Public Sector Pay Commission report and see where that brings us.”

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