The nurses, members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), voted 87% in favour of industrial action up to strikes, and the union board will meet tomorrow to decide on the timetable and form of action.
The PNA, which represents 5,000 nurses across the country, has accused the HSE of an “inadequate” response to address the issues of recruitment and retention of nurses throughout the mental health services.
The union’s general secretary designate, Peter Hughes, said the level of support from psychiatric nurses for industrial action reflected the utter frustration at the growing understaffing at both acute and community levels, and the inability of the HSE to bring forward a realistic plan to address the crisis in the short and long term.
“Nurses are not prepared to stand by and watch the demand for acute and community mental health services growing while knowing that this demand cannot be met with the current levels of understaffing with up to 600 nursing vacancies currently and a further 400 to arise from forecasted retirement,” said Mr Hughes.
“This situation is simply unsustainable, and staff have been left struggling to maintain acute and community services with no prospect of investing in the development of urgently needed new services.”
The union leader said the PNA met with Health Minister Simon Harris last week and set out what, he said, were clear proposals to address both the immediate staffing shortages throughout the services and also plan for the growing demand for newly qualified psychiatric nurses looming over the coming years.
“We need to see a comprehensive plan from the HSE that will include measures to retain existing staff in our services and significantly grow the number of student training places for psychiatric nursing,” said Mr Hughes.
The HSE has said it is has engaged with the PNA to try to resolve the issues which have been identified by the union.