The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) claim that the HSE has admitted to having no plan to deal with extra patients this winter.
The INMO said that they found it out during a meeting at the Workplace Relations Commission today with HSE and Department of Health officials.
They said that the HSE also admitted that they have been unable to fill 169 nursing posts in emergency departments across Ireland, for which they have funding.
On top of this, the INMO said, another 57 nurses would be needed to provide minimum levels of safe care, according to recognised staffing ratios. Yet extra funding for the posts is not available.
Speaking after the meeting, an emergency department nurse and INMO member said: “It’s impossible to think that things could get any worse. But winter is coming and there’s still no plan.
"It will simply be impossible to provide safe care.
“Emergency departments are overcrowded now, in summer. They’ll be warzones once winter comes.”
INMO Director of Industrial Relations, Tony Fitzpatrick, said: “Despite record overcrowding this summer, the HSE still don’t have a plan to deal with winter. Community health services are being cut, so emergency departments will face a tsunami of desperate patients with nowhere else to go.
“The recruitment and retention crisis is deepening, with hundreds of nursing vacancies in hospitals across Ireland.
"Nurses and midwives will be protesting at some of the worst-affected hospitals in the coming weeks. We cannot go on like this. The HSE has to be honest with the public.”