Nurses plan strike

Nurses’ union, Sindicato dos Enfermeiros Portugueses (SEP), has reacted angrily to a government plan to introduce a new professional grade, the health care technical assistant. They are now planning to stage a general strike on October 27 and 28.

Nurses want to hold the strike in response to the Health Minister’s refusal to abandon plans to introduce the new professional category in hospitals, to which all the competences of nursing will be attributed. The union refused to accept this new grade and walked out of a meeting with Luís Felipe Pereira, vowing to go ahead with the strike. “The Minister of Health maintained his plan of introducing a new professional group – health care technical assistant – and assign them areas of responsibility that clash with the strict competencies of nursing staff,” said the Union of Portuguese Nurses in a letter.

Pereira justified his position to introduce a new professional class by pointing to France, where such a body already exists. But the SEP challenged the comparison: “While in France, this grade of staff merely supports the professionals responsible for providing health care, the Minister of Health aspires to be the father of a new professional group and give them a range of competencies that belong to nurses. We cannot accept that nursing care can be attributed to people with a grade 12 education.”

The nursing union also claims that the government has a secret economic agenda, namely to create more technical staff than nurses in a bid to make savings.