Row over whether 63 beds to ease overcrowding can be used
Simon Harris and health service unions are at loggerheads over whether there is enough staff to cater for 63 beds being made available to allay the hospital trolley crisis.
The Health Minister announced that 28 extra beds opened in Galway on Thursday and the rest were to be rolled out over the coming weeks.
Mr Harris said that the HSE was taking a number of immediate steps to address the crisis and welcomed the fall in trolley figures to 395 yesterday, but criticised the health service for being inadequate.
However, the Irish Nurse and Midwives Organisation (INMO) chief Liam Doran said that further beds could only become available if enough staff were there to cater for them.
"Without those nurses we can't increase the beds, we can't increase the services," he said.
Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients Association reiterated this and said the timeline for the beds could be weeks, or months.
"We can only hope that the campaign they have will actually deliver the nurses in a more timely way," he said.
Private hospitals in cities including Cork and Dublin have been asked to accept patients on a case-by-case basis.
The Mater Private is among them, and confirmed it had been taking patients primarily with respiratory problems for an average three-day stay. The HSE is in dialogue with other hospitals including St Francis's in Mullingar, Aut Even in Kilkenny and Mater Private, Cork.
However, the chaos could get worse in February with nurses poised for strike action. Mr Doran said the INMO had a 90pc mandate for strike action, and that discussions would begin next week.
Siptu also balloted its 25,000 health worker members over pay and work issues.