Almost 500 patients on trolleys as hospitals face wave of staff protests
More than 210 hospital beds have had to be closed despite nearly 500 patients languishing on trolleys waiting for a bed yesterday.
A lack of staff is among the main reasons for the beds lying idle as the trolley crisis worsens.
The ongoing pressures on patient care and hospitals come as angry junior doctors and nurses prepare to begin balloting for industrial action.
Nurses fired the first shot in the industrial relations war yesterday after they declared they will implement a work-to-rule from Monday at Dungarvan Community Hospital in Waterford.
The move is in protest at the failure to fill 12 full-time posts for nurses at the 146-bed facility.
Mary Power, industrial relations officer with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said the shortage was further compounded by another seven jobs which were vacant arising from absences due to various factors, including maternity leave.
The nurses who held a lunch-time protest will refuse to do all non-nursing duties from Monday.
Ms Power warned: "This shortage of nursing staff has been ongoing for quite some time and while we have met management on many occasions, the HSE has failed to recruit enough nurses to meet the service needs."
She said the nurses had called for admissions of patients to be curtailed until staffing levels improved but this was not acted on.
Junior doctors in the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) are due to start balloting shortly following the decision by health officials to shelve talks on the restoration of a living-out allowance which was removed for new recruits from 2012.
The doctors said they would embark on industrial action, up to and including strike action, in pursuit of the accommodation support allowance.
IMO president Dr John Duddy, a trainee neurosurgeon in Cork, said they had not yet decided when they would trigger industrial action.
Around 4,000 junior doctors are seeking the allowance at a cost of over €12m to the health service.
Nurses, who want additional incentives introduced to encourage more nurses to stay in the health service, begin balloting next week and will have a result on December 15.
This could lead to industrial action being triggered in early January.
Lack of nurses, doctors and beds left several hospitals in trolley gridlock yesterday.
There were 37 patients waiting for a bed in Beaumont Hospital and 36 on trolleys in Cork University Hospital.
Other hospitals were also badly hit by overcrowding, including Letterkenny, Mullingar, Kerry and Sligo.
Dr Fergal Hickey, spokesman for emergency consultants, said Galway hospital was so overcrowded last week it tried to put trolleys in the waiting room.