Health Minister Mary Harney was accused today of being out of touch with the pressures of maintaining a safe level of patient care.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said it was surprised and disappointed by claims from Ms Harney about the need for flexibility among staff to introduce reforms.
The INMO said nurses show flexibility on an hourly basis and co-operate with redeployment.
But it warned that reform must be shown to improve quality of care and not simply act as a camouflage for cutbacks.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said negative and ill-informed comments about a lack of change was insulting and corrosive to the morale of staff.
“Flexibility, redeployment and reform are engaged in by our members every day,” Mr Doran said.
“However, we will not accept flawed policies and initiatives which fail to recognise the ongoing contribution of nurses and midwives and which fail to implement the reforms, from the top down, which are necessary to protect safe practice and which put the patient first.”
Mr Doran said the INMO has twice, in recent months, brought forward reform suggestions but the Department of Health and Health Service Executive have failed to engage.
Before her address at the Irish Hospital Consultants Association conference at the weekend, Ms Harney said patients would suffer unless a radical process of change was implemented.
The INMO noted that in one Dublin hospital 30 nurses were re-assigned from one ward to another to meet patient needs and in the past two weeks the INMO has agreed with the re-deployment of nurses from hospitals in Croom, Galway and Dundalk to other healthcare facilities.