NURSES claim patients will die as a result of overcrowding at the country's second-busiest A&E department.
Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and SIPTU staged a four-hour work stoppage at the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick yesterday in an effort to highlight their concern over staff shortages and overcrowding.
And they refused to rule out further action, claiming there had been no indication from managers they would engage in 'meaningful negotiations'.
There are 100 acute beds and 168 elderly care beds currently closed in the midwest as the HSE struggles to deal with a budget deficit in the region of €20m.
Changes in A&E services at Ennis, Nenagh and St John's hospitals have seen activity levels at the Mid Western increase by 30pc, with up to 150 people attending each day.
"At this stage it has come to dangerous levels. Health and safety, infection control, overcrowding, all completely in breach of national guidelines," staff member Pauline O'Flaherty said.
The clinical nurse manager said conditions for patients at the Mid Western Regional Hospital were currently worse than she had ever experienced in her 36 years of nursing.
"Last month was the worst August in history. We had up to 31 patients waiting on trolleys overnight for beds and some of those weren't placed for up to 32 or 36 hours," she said.
Up to 30 nurses joined the picket line outside the hospital yesterday.
Management described the action as dangerous and accused the unions of failing to co-operate in the organisation of emergency cover for the duration of the work stoppage.
However, unions insisted that the appropriate level of cover was in place during their action.