Nurses back plan aimed at easing trolleys crisis as 71pc vote in favour
The threat of hospital strike action by nurses has been lifted - but their union has warned that there can be no slide in agreed measures to reduce emergency department overcrowding.
The return of industrial peace came after the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) accepted, by a margin of 71pc to 29pc, the revised proposals to trigger a series of measures aimed at easing the trolley crisis when overcrowding reaches a certain level.
The proposals were agreed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) last month and involve a range of actions, including cancellation of operations, doctors doing more ward rounds to discharge patients and ultimately placing patients on trolleys in wards in order to make space in the emergency department.
INMO chief Liam Doran said yesterday that the union was satisfied that hospitals were following the protocols but that the impact was being undermined by pressures such as the numbers of patients suffering flu.
There is also the ongoing problem of insufficient hospital beds and additional beds are essential if there is to be a significant dent in the trolley figures, he warned.
Mr Doran said: "The acceptance of these proposals by our members re-affirms their absolute commitment to their patients and to ensuring that they can deliver safe care to the sick and vulnerable.
"Our members constantly stated, in all of the information meetings held recently, that this was never about pay and conditions. It was all about ensuring the unacceptable situation in emergency departments was prioritised by management.
"We will now demand the full implementation and operation of the agreement in every location. It has the potential to represent a step-change in tackling the issue.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has also welcomed the clear vote for acceptance.
He said: "We are making progress in reducing overcrowding.
"The number of patients on trollies today is 20pc lower than it was this day last year, in spite of the influenza outbreak.
"This shows that our plan is working but there is a long way to go yet.
"We will need sustained actions and improvements over the coming years and I am more determined than ever to see that through."