Midwives and maternity support workers at Craigavon Area Hospital went on strike this morning (Thursday) for the first time in 134 years.
Members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said it was “with a heavy heart” that they took part in a four-hour stoppage between 8am and 12pm over a one per cent pay rise.
No elective Caesarean sections took place and routine work, such as antenatal clinics, were rescheduled.
However, Portadown woman Paula Jordan, an RCM representative for the Southern Trust, stressed that no woman would be put in any danger and told women in labour or who needed medical advice to contact the maternity unit as normal.
Action short of a strike will also be taken from May 1-7 when midwives will be working to rule. A record of any overtime worked will be kept to show how much the job depends on the goodwill of staff.
The decision to strike was taken after the Health Minister Jim Wells, who has since resigned, chose not to accept recommendations by the NHS pay review body to award midwives a one per cent rise.
Ms Jordan said colleagues in Scotland, England and Wales had already been awarded the rise, leaving Northern Ireland midwives angry that they are now being disadvantaged on the basis of geographical location.
“This is despite pressures to deliver services to an ever-changing demographic of woman with increasingly complex needs with fewer resources,” she said.
Her colleague Emma Creagh said midwives had put up with a pay freeze for five years. “We have now come to the point where enough is enough,” she added.