The HSE has pledged that the 440 extra beds promised to deal with emergency department (ED) overcrowding will be open by Christmas.
However, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has warned that it was not enough and that there was not enough staff in place to manage the number promised.
Director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, said that yesterday’s meeting of the Emergency Department Task Force looked at new bed provision, improving weekend discharges and co-ordinating hospital and community organisation.
Mr O’Brien took over as chair of the Task Force at the start of the month, replacing Liam Woods, his national director of acute hospitals
Last week, Mr O’Brien promised to visit the 19 hospitals most plagued by ED overcrowding in an effort to bring the trolley numbers under control. He acknowledged that the HSE was not where it needed to be on the issue coming into the winter months.
However, secretary general of the INMO Liam Doran said the 440 beds was only the first in a series of steps that needed to be taken to reverse emergency department overcrowding.
“I made it quite plain from an INMO perspective that in our view current services are understaffed and if you are going to open beds, no matter how welcome they are, you can’t open them without a very significant increase in the number of nurses and support staff that are required to maintain them.
“At the moment, while strenuous efforts are being made, at the moment we do not have the staff to allow those beds to open.
“We are working on it, in fairness everybody is working on it but at the minute we haven’t managed to secure them and we are going to have to have further discussions on that issue,” Mr Doran told RTÉ.
Meanwhile, around 100 members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation took part in a protest outside St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin to highlight overcrowding there.
Emergency department nurses at the hospital voted last week for industrial action and a work-to-rule will begin today.
St Vincent’s said it had contingency plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure patient safety.
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