Health chiefs have warned of disruption to services on an unprecedented levels scale during industrial action next week.
The Southern Health Trust, along with others across Northern Ireland, is shortly outline on its own website plans in relation to next Thursday’s planned action.
The Department of Health has voiced its frustration at the “ongoing absence” of a pay offer.
Healthcare workers, including nurses, midwives and ambulance personnel, among others, will be on strike.
And with a week to go, the Department of Health has said it is “extremely concerned about the potential impact” of the walk-out.
A Departmental spokesperson has urged the public to act responsibly to lessen that impact.
They said: “While every effort will be made to mitigate the impact on the public, there will be widespread disruption to all aspects of health and social care services.
“This is expected to impact across a wide range of areas including planned and unplanned (urgent/emergency) hospital services, community services such as day centres, district nursing and domiciliary care as well as ambulance cover.
“Trusts will work with trade union representatives to seek to protect emergency care.
“We nevertheless believe that disruption to services will be on a scale not experienced with previous industrial action.
“The strike action will be taking place at a time when services are already under sustained and very severe pressure.
“Staffing shortfalls on the day are expected to be further exacerbated by industrial action in education and public transport.
“We would therefore ask the public to be very conscious of the fact that a significantly reduced health service will be in place on 18 January. This would mean not just delays over and above existing levels but some services not being available at all.
“Please use services appropriately and help ensure care is available to those who need it most.
“Take all sensible steps to reduce your chances of requiring health service treatment on the day.
“At the same time, if you need emergency hospital care on the day, you must seek it immediately.”
Turning to the failure to reach a solution to resolve the impasse, the spokesperson added: “The Department is very aware of the deep frustration of health service staff at the ongoing absence of a pay offer for this year.
“We also understand that this frustration is further compounded by indications that funding for public sector pay increases is potentially available.
“Under the current 2023/24 health budget, it has not yet been possible for the Department to make a pay offer to HSC staff.
“That situation is neither sustainable nor defensible and cannot hold indefinitely.”