Marion Ritchie, Unison branch secretary for the Down Lisburn area, said it was important for the nurses and anciliary staff to strike to assert their right for a proper wage and conditions.
She said following the last industrial action by nurses that: “We are now into the seventh week of Unison’s industrial action in support of safer staffing levels, pay parity and reduction of waiting lists which are the longest in the UK.
“We await to see if recently elected MP’s fulfil their promises of support. We also look to our local MLA’s, Department of Health officials and the Secretary of State to address these issues now.
“The fact that Unison, RCN, Unite & NIPSA are all taking strike action today reinforces the fact that Health care staff feel passionately about the preservation of the NHS and want to restore it to a service that they can be proud of again and will last for generations to come.
“Again we ask the public to support us as they have previously and join us in the fight to restore our health service to a high standard. Unison would like to thank those facilities which provided the striking staff with food and refreshments during this time and in particular Molloy’s in Downpatrick and 11A in Crossgar.”
Also, Terry Ritchie, local NIPSA representative, said: “The two key issues are the equity issue for fair and equal pay. We are paid a lower rate compared to the staff in the UK. And we cannot deliver the service while we constantly have a chronic short staff situation. It’s a viscious circle. . The present our staff are stretched to breaking point.
“The offers to date from the Permanent Secretary for Health are just too little too late. Our elected representative have chosen not to function as a government.”
The striking hospital staff have widespread support in the community and the full backing of the Down Community Health Committee which has long campaigned for adequate hospital services in the Down area and for the re-estabishment of a 24/7 A&E at the Downe Hospital.
Also, the Royal College of Midwifes is having a ballot on the 29th January to see if they will go on strike too. Their wages are also substantially lower than their counterparts in the UK. The Downe Hospital still operates a midwife-led service.
A spokesperson for the Southern Hospital Trust said: ““Discussion with union colleagues is ongoing regarding strike action this week and details of the local impact of strike action will be included in a regional statement.”
INDUSTRIAL ACTION ON WED 8 JANUARY
A spoeksperson for the South Eastern Heath and Social Care TRust said: “All Out Patient appointments at Ulster, Ards, Bangor and Lagan Valley Hospitals are cancelled, and patients are being notified by letter.
“The following are NOT AFFECTED:
Maternity – Radiology – Renal – the MacDermott Unit.
“The Downe Hospital Out Patients will be open as normal, so patients should ensure they attend any scheduled appointment.
“Emergency Departments remain open, but Minor Injury Units at Ulster, Ards and Bangor Hospitals will be closed.”
“Any patients scheduled for a procedure will be notified of a cancellation by telephone. If you do not receive a phone call, please attend as scheduled.”