Minister for Health Simon Harris has called for all sides to "use the industrial relations mechanisms of the State" to avert strike action planned by Health Service Executive support staff later this week.

Ten thousand workers are due to take 24-hour industrial action on Thursday.

Mr Harris said he had urged management and the union SIPTU to "double their efforts" in an effort to resolve the row over pay.

The dispute will hit patients in 38 hospitals and health facilities around the country.

Talks at the Workplace Relations Commission ended without agreement last night.

The HSE said the strike action will have a significant impact on services and said patients will be contacted by their local hospital or healthcare facility over any changes to planned procedures or services.

SIPTU said its strike committees will engage with management at local level regarding contingency arrangements to minimise the impact on patients.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said many services delivered by support staff that were taken for granted would become apparent, including the feeding of patients, administration, and transportation of patients around hospitals.

Senior HSE management will also liaise later today to assess the situation.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Bell said the union remains available for talks at any time and called on Mr Harris to intervene.

He said the union has answered the call from the WRC, but the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has said no monies are due to members until 2021.

SIPTU insists that its members are due pay rises under the terms of a job evaluation scheme and Mr Bell said it is regrettable that workers have ended up in this situation, but the union cannot solve the dispute on its own.

A spokesperson for Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said there were well established procedures under the Public Service Stability Agreement to use the State's industrial relations machinery state.

It said it remains open to using them to avert the stoppage.

Meanwhile, the President of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine has said she hopes strike committees have learned from the impact of the nurses strikes.

Dr Emily O'Connor, who is a consultant in emergency medicine at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, said that up until today, she was not aware of any contingency plans.

Speaking on RTÉ News at One, she said support staff play a vital role in moving patients through the hospital system, and she is worried that patient care will be affected.

Dr O'Connor said the nurses strike had a significant effect on emergency departments, and she hopes lessons have been learnt since then.

"What I'm really hoping is that there was some learning by the strike committees after the nurses strike. It had a huge impact on the health service. We can work contingency plans around this, but we're already over stretched, particularly in the acute sector. I'm really worried that care is going to be affected."

The HSE has said that while efforts are continuing to avoid Thursday's industrial action, it will begin contingency planning with SIPTU. 

In a statement, it said that the contingency planning is to "ensure as little disruption as possible to patient services. It is also to ensure patient dignity and essential daily care remain in place.

"The HSE remains committed to early resolution of the strike action. This is important given the number of staffing groups involved and the impact on patients in our acute and community services.

"We will keep the public informed of any developments that may affect our services."


Read more:
Hospital support staff vote in favour of strike action
Warning of possible disruption due to health staff strike


Additional reporting: Sharon Gaffney