Munster: 95 year old woman waits over three hours for ambulance, as paramedics instructed to sit in office for 12 hour shifts

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has lambasted the Minister for Health after reports that 95 year old woman in Drogheda was left waiting three and a half hours for an ambulance last Sunday night.

Deputy Munster was speaking on statements on Covid-19 in the Dáil chamber on Wednesday evening, where she also raised the case of two paramedics who have been on managerial leave at the Drogheda ambulance service since the end of July, which has seen them spending 12 hour shifts sitting in an office, unable to go out in an ambulance or carry out any duties.

Deputy Munster said:

“On Sunday night a nursing home in Drogheda called an ambulance for a gravely ill 95 year old resident. That woman was waiting for three and a half hours for an ambulance.

“I’ve since learned that there are currently 2 paramedics in Drogheda ambulance station on managerial leave, which means they spend 12 hour shifts sitting in an office in the station, not working.

“This has been the situation since the end of July and there is no sign of the matter being resolved. The two workers want to return to work, but are being prevented from doing so.

“I am told that this week alone, 14 shifts will have to be covered due to various members of the ambulance service being on leave.

“The service has long been understaffed, but in the midst of a pandemic we have to ensure that all qualified health workers who can work, are working.

“We are facing into what is expected to be the hardest winter for healthcare in the history of the state, and we are woefully unprepared.

“Pressures on the service are going to increase, and we can expect increases in sick leave and Covid-related leave for staff in the coming weeks and months.

“I have written to the Minister for Health asking him to explain the three and a half hour wait for an ambulance, and this is before we head into the depths of winter. He needs to get ahead of this.

“The issue with these two paramedics must be resolved as a matter of urgency, and the wider long-standing issues of understaffing at the ambulance service have to address immediately, or there could be tragic consequences for people this winter.”

Imelda Munster: Government must protect workers’ rights as strike continues at Premier Periclase

IImelda Munster, Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath has again raised the matter of the ongoing industrial action at Premier Periclase, RHI Magnesita, in the Dáil.

Deputy Munster was speaking as workers at the plant spend their fourth week on the picket line, due to the collapse of a long-standing collective agreement at the company, and the company’s refusal to engage with worker representatives at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Deputy Munster said:

“This dispute isn’t about a pay rise. It’s due to the company’s proposal to lay off workers and put others on reduced hours while transferring work to non-union labour and retaining contractors on site.

“It’s classic union-busting and we must stand up against this type of behaviour.

“Workers had no choice but to take to the picket lines, as management repeatedly refused to engage in talks at the WRC in any meaningful way.

“Four days into the strike, the company issued letters to workers informing them that the long-standing collective agreement with SIPTU and Unite the Union was no longer valid.

“Since then the company has attending the WRC, but is still refusing to sit around the table with the unions are the WRC to resolve this matter.

“I have written to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, and the CEO of the RHI Magnesita asking them to intervene and ensure that the company engages with unions at the WRC.  Yesterday I asked the Minister of State Damien English TD to do the same, and I implored him to protect workers’ rights in this state.

“The Minister of State maintained the usual hands-off response and referred to the voluntary nature of industrial relations in this state.

“I am very concerned that if this type of behaviour goes unchecked it will be a race to the bottom for workers’ rights, as other companies follow suit.

“Workers took a 5% pay cut in 2016 when the company was in financial trouble. This is no longer the case, and the company was in a position to give a 20% pay increase to their CEOs. The workers want to engage with management, but they are refusing to do.

“Workers have fought long and hard for their rights. The WRC is the state apparatus to resolve disputes of this type, and the company won’t engage with them. The state has a duty to ensure that all parties act in good faith and engage with WRC in cases of this type. As usual our government has washed their hands of this and have left workers out in the cold.”

O Murchú: Brexit – playing poker with a man who doesn’t play by the rules

The Brexit brinkmanship from the British government has been compared to ‘playing poker with a guy who doesn’t keep the rules’, a Dundalk TD has told the Dáil.

Sinn Féin’s Ruairí Ó Murchú was speaking in Leinster House this week ahead of the proposed Internal Markets Bill was put before Westminster, which was described by the North’s Secretary of State Brandon Lewis as ‘a breach of international law in a specific and limited way’.

The Dundalk TD said: ‘It is unacceptable that we could have a British Government that is basically saying that it is OK for them to break international law.

‘It’s like playing poker with a guy who never keeps the rules.

‘We thought that this was the British Government setting a negotiating stance and then we had the news that Jonathan Jones, the head of the British Government legal team resigned in relation to this.

‘We need an answer in terms of what the EU and Irish Government is going to do’.

He said there was huge worry about what the British government intentions are, particularly in Dundalk.

The Louth deputy said: ‘We are worried that if they are willing to circumvent the Irish protocol and the Withdrawal Agreement, that we will have difficulties into the future.

‘People in border areas like Dundalk are very worried about what the future is going to hold, not just from a business point of view, but a societal one.

‘We do not want to see any sort of infrastructure or any sort of checks along the border. It’s utterly unacceptable given the history that we have, particularly in my area. 

Deputy Ó Murchú said he welcomed what Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney had to say about the government’s reaction to the situation.

He said: I welcome what Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney has said about the anger of the government.

I also welcome his comments about the mitigations involved in the Withdrawal Agreement and in relation to the Irish Protocol regarding the single market and customs union,  in terms of business.

‘We do not need to impact on people’s lives and it’s unacceptable, that must be pointed out to the EU.

‘The Irish Government must remain firm. If we have a circumvention of the Irish Protocol and all that can come from that, and if we do not have those protections, it will be utterly unacceptable by the people that there will be any impositions in relation to border checks or infrastructure’.

O Murchú Condemns 30 Tonnes of dumped rubbish

The dumping of an estimated 30 tonnes of building waste at a laneway off the Doylesfort Road in Dundalk on Friday night has been condemned by Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.

The Dundalk deputy said he understands that some of the waste may have originated at a renovation project in the Midlands and those who were working on the site may have believed they were dealing with a properly-licenced waste company.

However, insulation sheets, doors, bricks and concrete blocks, along with other material, were dumped in a laneway on the outskirts of Dundalk.

Mr Ó Murchú praised the Gardai who were rapidly on the scene and although the driver managed to escape across fields, the truck was seized.

Mr Ó Murchú, who visited the scene, said: ‘Thanks to the timely response of Gardaí, detectives now have the lorry in their possession, which is a crucial piece of evidence.

‘Scenes of Crime Officers spent hours on the laneway on Saturday collecting further information from the rubbish and I understand they are confident of identifying the rogue waste contractor and the source of the material.

‘From what I understand, some of the waste came from a renovation project in the Midlands and those who were carrying out the work may have believed they were dealing with a properly licenced waste contractor.

‘We have been blighted by small and large scale dumping over the last few years in Louth and it flies in the face of those, such as the Tidy Towns, residents’ associations, Dundalk BIDS, and others, who work hard to improve Dundalk and the environment’.

O Murchú: Vulnerable facing delays in dental treatment

The decision by some dentists to discontinue treatment for medical card holders is hitting the most vulnerable in society, according to TD Ruairí Ó Murchú, who says people in residential care are left with nowhere to go for dental treatment.

The Sinn Féin deputy is highlighting the situation where some people in residential settings in Louth were told at the start of August that their dental practices would no longer be providing ‘new’ care for medical card holders.

Dental practices have told these patients that treatment can be pursued under Louth Community Care, but Mr Ó Murchú says he understands that they are not taking patients unless it is an emergency.

This has been confirmed by the HSE, following a representation by the Dundalk TD, who told him in a statement: ‘The HSE dental service is also facing major backlogs, as a result of service restrictions during the height of Covid 19, and reduced capacity currently, due to new work processes, enhanced infection prevention and control measures, and redeployment of some dental staff.

‘If any of the patients you are representing are experiencing pain, and have difficulty accessing treatment, the HSE dental service can arrange for them to be seen as an emergency’.

A number of dentists have withdrawn from the DTSS (Dental Treatment Services Scheme) which looks after medical card holders, because of funding allocated to the scheme.

This is coupled with the high Covid-19-related costs for dentists that they believe are not sufficiently covered by the Department of Health.

A number of dentists, including some in Dundalk, have told their medical card patients that they will no longer provide treatment for them, though treatment which is currently underway will be completed.

In a statement, the HSE said there are dentists who remain in the DTSS and are willing to treat medical card patients, but Mr Ó Murchú says he is aware that patients are finding it ‘extremely difficult’ to source another dentist locally.

Mr Ó Murchú said medical card holders, particularly those with disabilities, are ‘facing the dreadful choice of having to either forgo treatment or face the burden of having to pay for dental treatment out of the €203 disability allowance they receive each week’.

He said: ‘The HSE statement acknowledges that there has been a withdrawal of dentists from the DTSS and it is the Department of Health’s intention to ‘revise’ the DTSS and ‘engage’ with the Irish Dental Association.

‘However, there seems to be little urgency about this and, in the meantime, medical card holders, including those with disabilities, are facing worry and concern in relation to their dental care.

‘While the HSE says it will facilitate patients moving to another dentist, there is no guarantee that the dentists will be local and there could be an added travel burden for those with disabilities.

‘The government is asleep on this issue – it has been flagged to them for months– and still, there is no resolution in sight.

‘In the short term, the government needs to engage dwith dentists and provide an interim solution so people are not left without care’.