Emergency department nurses are to strike next week after rejecting a deal to tackle overcrowding and staffing issues.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation announced the impending industrial action yesterday.
The INMO said it will be consulting emergency-department strike committees and representatives tomorrow “to collectively review the current situation” and to prepare for the first day of strike action next week.
ED nurses in seven hospitals across the country are set to stage rolling two-hour work stoppages on January 14 and 26.
The INMO executive council warned that “subsequent days of action” would follow these dates.
It said members of the 26 EDs nationwide rejected, by a margin of 58% to 42%, the deal that was brokered last month during talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.
The proposed package included a number of incentives to recruit and retain ED nurses — those taking up posts were to be offered a €1,500 education bursary after 12 months while a relocation allowance, worth a similar amount, was also offered.
The deal included revised internal arrangements for tackling overcrowding and a provision for ED nurses to get two additional days of leave this year and next year in lieu of meal breaks.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said he could understand why nurses rejected the deal.
“It is quite clear that, in rejecting these proposals, our members were stating that they had no confidence in senior management, at local level, to implement the proposed measures on a continuous basis,” he said.
“It was also obvious that members believe that there is a complete lack of awareness, within senior management, as to the compromising of patient care, and safe nursing practice, occurring on a daily basis, from the continuous presence of trolleys and overcrowding generally.”
Mr Doran said the strike action is part of the INMO’s campaign for “a safer environment for patients and staff in the country’s emergency departments”.
Yesterday, the number of patients on trolleys across the country reached a total of 558. Beaumont Hospital had the highest number of patients on trolleys with 48, while in St Vincent’s University Hospital there were 43.
Cork University Hospital had the third-highest number of patients on trolleys, and the highest total outside of Dublin, with 32.
“In the last two days we’ve had 550 people on trolleys in a totally predictable third period that was not managed. It left frontline staff and patients totally compromised,” said Mr Doran.
“Members, particularly at meetings in the past two days, repeatedly articulated the view that this demonstrated senior management and clinicians, at hospital level, had not prepared for the inevitable surge, in the early days of the new year, which left patients and staff once again in crisis.”
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