SIPTU has launched a new Health Care Sector at a conference in Dublin which was addressed by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar today. Sector Organiser Marie Butler said that the new sector for health care assistants has been set up in response to the growing demand for representation for this group of ‘hands on’ health workers. She also set out a list of proposals that would lead to the professionalisation of the ‘Health Care Assistant’ across the Irish health service. “We recognise that Health Care Assistants in hospital, care and community settings are crucial to the future delivery of health services in Ireland and we welcome the Minister’s keen interest in this area. Today moves our members one step closer on our journey towards full recognition as a group of health professionals.” Speaking at the conference, Mr Varadkar said the role of health care assistant has become increasingly important, as nursing and midwifery has become more specialised. “Health care assistants play an important role in delivering the highest standard of care, under the direction and supervision of Nursing and Midwifery staff.  This has helped to improve services to patients, and has allowed us to better utilise the skills of nurses and midwives.”  SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said that the Minister has been very receptive towards the future role of the health care assistants.  “In order for Health Care Assistants to be a position to respond to the future demands it will be necessary to first of all professionalise these front line health workers. These workers are the only group to provide ‘hands on’ patient care who not to be registered by a regulatory body. It will also be necessary for Government to commit to on-going training and education of health care assistants and those who wish to seek careers in this area of health provision. These considerations are already subject to two separate European studies, including on by the European Commission.” Ann Marie Tibby, SIPTU Shop Steward and Chairperson of the Health Care Assistant Committee said without SIPTU empowering health care assistants over the last ten years this day would not have been possible. “It has been a long journey to get this far. SIPTU had the vision to invest in education and training for health care assistants and now we are confident to take on the next challenge of winning recognition for the vital role we provide in our hospitals and communities.”