Safety planning by the HSE and the nurses' unions will continue right up to next Wednesday's 24-hour strike by nurses and midwives.
HSE national director of acute operations, Liam Woods, said discussions on contingency plans with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Organisations began two weeks ago.
His comments came ahead of a third day of talks aimed at averting the strike between the HSE and nursing unions which will get underway tomorrow afternoon at the Workplace Relations Commission. The second day of talks adjourned this evening.
On the discussions on contingency plans, Mr Woods said they would continue until next Wednesday when nurses are due to hold their first 24-hour stoppage.
“We are at a more advanced stage in terms of understanding what the strike impact would be and how we handle that,” said Mr Woods.
Hospital groups and community healthcare organisations across the country have assessed what the likely impact would be.
“They have already communicated at some level with GPs and with individual hospital sites,” he said.
If the strike went ahead as planned next Wednesday there would be no outpatient services on the day.
Mr Woods said about 15,000 people would normally attend out-patient departments over a day so it was the biggest single number impacted by the industrial dispute.
Mr Woods said there were over 3.3m out-patient appointments per year. “If you did the math on that you would see that it is about 15,000 a day,” he said.
Elective surgery was also cancelled on the day of action. Mr Woods said they had sought a derogation in cases where there was any risk to life or very urgent care needed.
Mr Woods said hospitals did not book as much elective surgery in January as they would at other times of the year.
At this time of year, hospitals are under significant pressure from more urgent admissions.
The INMO says it expects that members who are agency nurses or midwives will not be available for work in services that are in dispute.
Services for older people will not be involved in the dispute on Wednesday but will be involved in further action next month.
Nurses who are members of the PNA will not be available to work overtime next Wednesday.