Healthcare workers have called for an urgent inspection of Sligo University Hospital, claiming that overcrowding issues and other conditions are "beyond demoralising" for staff.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is urging the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to intervene, claiming there are issues relating to the risk of fire, injuries, and additional infections.
Some 26 people were awaiting a bed at the hospital today according to the INMO's trolley watch. The same report noted there were 80 waiting at Cork University Hospital and 60 in University Hospital Limerick.
In a letter to the HSA, the INMO stated that a high level of patient attendance at the hospital, coupled with delays in discharging patients, was leading to health and safety risks to hospital staff.
The INMO has stated that safety issues are particularly severe in the emergency department, with Sligo University Hospital treating 5,901 patients on trolleys since January.
The INMO said that due to the large numbers of patients being treated in corridors on trolleys and chairs, staff were concerned about specific safety issues including the ability to safely evacuate in the event of a fire.
They also raised concerns about the higher risk of assaults on staff, a very high risk of infection transmission, and increased risk of injury due to severely reduced space in which to work and move between patients.
Moreover, it was noted that the increased workload and pressures on staff was leading to stress and increasing risk of trauma and burnout, with staff regularly unable to take appropriate breaks during their shifts due to staffing and workload issues.
INMO Industrial Relations Officer for Sligo, Neal Donohue said the conditions in the emergency department "are so concerning we have no choice but to call for an urgent inspection".
“It’s simply not acceptable for staff to be at this much risk inside a hospital, and it’s beyond demoralizing for our members when their basic safety needs are not being met," Mr Donohue said.
“We need to be making nursing and midwifery more attractive, but at the moment we’re not meeting minimum standards in terms of working conditions, and we need to consider how this affects future staffing as well as the daily risks to patients and our members."
He added: “We can’t expect people to work under these conditions indefinitely and when staff leave the area or leave nursing because the pressure is too much, we’re going to see long-term effects in health services across the region.”