Nurses from hospitals in the midwest are the latest to vote in favour of industrial action, following the lead set by colleagues from Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and Galway University Hospital.
Talks between management at Beaumont and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) are under way at the Labour Relations Commission in a bid to stave off a work-to-rule scheduled for January 27.
Similar action is planned for Galway University Hospital and hospitals in the midwest, to commence on February 3, and including University Hospital Limerick (UHL), Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.
During the work-to-rule, nurses will only engage in direct care duties .
The widespread support for industrial action comes as EDs experience unprecedented numbers of patients on trolleys, a figure that hit an all-time high of 601 last week. Yesterday the figure was 433. Nurses claim the conditions are compromising patient safety.
Beaumont consistently tops the trolley count figures. Yesterday, the INMO reported 44 patients on trolleys in the ED, and five on trolleys in Beaumont wards.
In the midwest, nurses blamed “unabated overcrowding” at University Hospital Limerick and a “critical shortage” of approximately 70-100 nursing posts in Limerick. There were 29 patients on trolleys in UHL yesterday, seven of which were placed on wards. Limerick TD Kieran O’Donnell claimed 23 additional nurses are being recruited to help the ED workload but the INMO said funding for the posts had not been approved.
Today’s national nurses’ protest takes place outside the Dáil beginning at noon at the Kildare Street entrance and has the support of Siptu, Ictu and other trade unions.
Meanwhile, the first meeting of the HSE’s emergency department taskforce, set up to tackle the problems of ED overcrowding, is due to take place shortly.
The taskforce includes Health Minister Leo Varadkar; HSE’s Jim O’Sullivan; Angela Fitzgerald (chair of a previous HSE taskforce); Robert Kidd, general manager of the HSE acute hospital division; Liam Doran, secretary general of the INMO; Louise O’Donnell, Impact national secretary for health; Dr Trevor Duffy, consultant rheumatologist; Dr Gerard Crotty, president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA); Dr Gary Courtney, clinical director of St Luke’s Hospital Kilkenny; Dr Aine Carroll, HSE national director of clinical strategy and programmes; Dr Mark Doyle emergency medicine consultant; Michael Shannon, HSE director of nursing and midwifery services; Dr Gerry McCarthy emergency medicine consultant; Kevin Figgis Siptu health division; Dr Joe Clarke, HSE primary care clinical lead; John Hennessy, HSE national director primary care; Pat Healy, HSE national director social care; Dr Philip Crowley, HSE national director of quality and patient safety; Dr Margo Wrigley consultant psychiatrist; ambulance service chief Martin Dunne; Mary Day, CEO Mater Hospital; Eileen Whelan director of nursing and midwifery and Dr Colm Henry, HSE national lead, clinical directors’ programme.