Trolley numbers rise as 'vacancies unfilled'
Hospitals are not living up to their promises to hire additional staff, pushing up the numbers of patients facing long delays on trolleys so far this month, nurses claim.
A deal to reduce the trolley crisis, agreed in January to prevent a nurses' strike, is being implemented too slowly, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
The union met with the HSE at the Workplace Relations Commission yesterday to review the agreement - which should see hospitals trigger a series of measures, including cancellations of operations on waiting list patients, if emergency overcrowding reaches a particular level.
The numbers on trolleys have risen beyond 500 on several days in March - an 18pc increase in the first two weeks of this month, compared to the same period last year.
Nurses' chief Liam Doran said their main grievances included:
■ Some hospital managements' continuing failure to demonstrate full awareness of all aspects of the deal;
■ An ongoing reluctance in some hospitals to react, as required, when signals of overcrowding emerge;
■ A failure by some hospital consultants to come on board in response to growing overcrowding;
■ The failures to postpone the admission of patients from waiting lists to free up beds;
■ The continuing failure, in some hospitals, to have experienced senior doctors on duty over the extended day.
He said: "Our members in almost all departments highlighted the fact that they continue to work with many vacancies. This results in the majority of shifts being left short of the agreed staffing level.
"The recent agreement provides for all existing vacancies to be filled, together with other initiatives, including renewed recruitment campaigns, flexible working opportunities and assistance with on-going professional development.
"However, in the past week, it has become clear that the HSE is seeking to slow down recruitment due to hospital budgets being exceeded."
A spokesman for the HSE said yesterday some emergency departments have reported significant increases this year.
This is most marked among older people, who are more likely to be admitted.
The talks adjourned until tomorrow.