It will be “impossible” to staff any additional beds included in the HSE's Winter Plan because of the “recruitment pause”, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has warned.
General secretary of the INMO, Phil Ni Sheaghdha, told a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health that the union was not consulted about the plan.
“We have no indication of what's in it, bar a very broad outline,” said Ms Ní Sheaghdha when discussing workforce planning in the health sector with committee members.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said she co-chaired the Emergency Department Taskforce and it looked at what various hospital sites would be doing over the winter months.
“But there was no consultation as to what is actually going to happen,” she said.
Labour's Alan Kelly asked if the INMO had been consulted in previous years, describing it as a "common sense" approach.
“We would seek always to have a dialogue with the employer in respect of a winter plan and it has happened in previous years,” she said.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the Winter Plan, as they understood it, was providing additional home care packages and the focus would be on the National Treatment Purchase Fund buying services in the private sector.
The plan would hopefully provide some relief for a while in acute hospitals. “But it is by no means a long term plan,” said Ms Ní Sheaghdha.
The Economic and Social Research Institute and the Sláintecare plan to reform the health services had stated that more beds were needed, she pointed out.
You need to plan your staffing around that and getting to that point. We're not doing that. In fact, we are doing the opposite. We are closing the lid firmly on recruitment and it's simply counterproductive.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the nurses and midwives who could be recruited were not “hanging around”.
Because of Brexit Britain had become extremely active in recruiting nurses from Ireland because they were not getting nurses from other European countries.
Earlier, Ms Ní Sheaghdha said nurses were “crippled” because of the current recruitment and retention crisis.
She pointed out the current 37,843 nursing positions were 1,157 less than the pre-moratorium December 2007 figure.
“The reality is a busier and more acute service and fewer staff to deliver it. The current pause/freeze in place, once again, is placing immense pressure on an already struggling workforce.”