Today is the first nurses strike in Ireland in 20 years; more scheduled

Nurses in Ireland have officially gone on strike as of 8 am local Irish time on Wednesday, January 30, citing the need for better pay.

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The BBC reports that more than 35,000 nurses across Ireland have gone on strike. It is the first time Irish nurses have gone on strike in 20 years.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has said that 13,000 hospital outpatient appointments and 2,000 surgeries will be canceled, and another 10,400 appointments at community care services will be postponed in the wake of the strike.

Cancer surgeries and disability services will not be affected, while emergency room services will be operating under a reduced staff.

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The strike comes after talks between the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO) and the HSE have come to an impasse. The HSE is arguing that the INMO’s request for a pay rise and better conditions for staff at a cost of 300 million ($342 million) is unaffordable.

The Irish government also maintains that if wages are raised for the INMO, other unions will follow suit in demanding raises.

In a statement on January 29, INMO Director of Industrial Relations Tony Fitzpatrick said: “We are deeply disappointed that the government still have no serious proposals to resolve this dispute. No nurse or midwife wants to go on strike, but we have been forced into this position by a government that just isn’t listening."

“The largest strike in the history of the health service looms and the government seemingly has nothing to say. We are always open for talks and to receive realistic proposals to end this dispute.”

“The first strike is set for tomorrow. Extensive contingency plans have been arranged with the HSE and hospital management.”

“We are immensely grateful for the outpouring of public support for Ireland’s nurses and midwives, and for the solidarity events by Irish nurses working overseas.”

Nurses and midwives are going on strike for only the second time in 100 years.

They are standing up for patients and fair pay.

If you're near a picket from 8am-4pm tomorrow, drop by and show your support.

Full list of pickets here

— Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (@INMO_IRL) January 29, 2019

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Patricia King, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), said: “We are obviously very concerned about the outcome of this for the users of the health service; for the nurses who are working in the health service and indeed for all the other grades who will be affected.”

“From our perspective; that is why we are here and why we took part in the court’s deliberations... to give it our best shot to see if we can come to a resolution.”

Speaking with RTE, Dr. Emily O’Connor estimated "about 3,500 to 4,000 patients" present at Ireland’s emergency departments every day.

"So there's a lot of concerns that we won't have enough nurses and that in particular,” said Dr. O’Connor, “we won't have a nurse to triage patients as they come into the emergency department.”

"That means we have concerns that we (doctors) won't be as good at plucking out the sickest to be seen first."

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While the January 30 strike is only set to last 24 hours, more strikes are scheduled for next Tuesday and Thursday, as well as February 12, 13 and 14, if an agreement is not reached.