Nurses to take 'radical action' over staff crisis
Nurse's will launch a "radical action campaign" next week in response to the understaffing crisis which is set to see hospital beds closed as the winter trolley gridlock worsens.
In a letter to union members, head of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Liam Doran said it was clear, following weeks of consultation meetings across the country, that strong action was now needed to protect their "practice, staffing levels and their overall welfare".
A meeting of the union's executive early next week is expected to give the go-ahead to ballot nurses, asking for a mandate to start industrial action if beds and other community services are not closed or curtailed to match the number of nurses to cater to them safely.
Initially, this would see nurses refuse to be redeployed, to provide cross-cover in the community for public health nurse duties or to do overtime.
Nurses have warned that with so many jobs now vacant, existing staff are faced with intolerable workloads and patient care is compromised.
The action will put pressure on Health Minister Simon Harris to introduce special incentive measures to recruit and retain nurses.
Nurses recently won two key concessions, including the reintroduction of a time plus one-sixth premium payment for hours worked in acute hospitals between 6pm and 8pm.
They also got the restoration of incremental credit for graduate nurses from 2011-2015 which is worth around €1,500 annually with effect from January.
However, these are unlikely to be enough to dampen the anger and frustration of existing staff nurses or lead to any dramatic improvement in recruitment and retention.
Already, University Hospital Waterford has had to close 10 inpatient beds because of a shortage of 25 nurses.
This action is set to be repeated in other hospitals in the coming weeks, putting pressure on emergency departments.
There were 453 patients on trolleys waiting for a bed yesterday with hospitals in Drogheda, South Tipperary and Limerick among the worst hit.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher obtained information from the HSE that Temple Street Children's Hospital has had to curtail its surgery providing cochlear implants to children with hearing difficulties because it does not have enough theatre nurses.
Mr Kelleher was told in a parliamentary reply that it has had to implement rolling theatre closures because of the problems faced in attracting and retaining nurses. He warned: "Any delays in these children receiving their procedures can be very damaging to their future speech and hearing.
"Having procedures cancelled in our public hospitals for young children cannot be deemed acceptable by the HSE and the minister."