Sunday 25 February 2018

Nurses picket Dail and accuse government of playing ‘Russian roulette’ with lives

Lyndsey Telford

NURSES have accused the Government of playing "Russian roulette" with people`s lives in overcrowded hospitals hit by swingeing cuts.

Emergency ward staff from the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick have picketed the Dail, warning that patients up and down the country are being treated like animals.

After three work stoppages at the A&E unit in the last three weeks, 80 nurses protested in Dublin to demand Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Health Minister Dr James Reilly review resources.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and Siptu appealed for nurses from hospitals all over Ireland to campaign against cuts and warned people are in danger of dying due to overcrowding.

Kerry McAuliffe, an emergency nurse of 28 years, said patients in Limerick were being treated like animals in deplorable conditions.

"The Government needs to stop playing Russian roulette with their lives and realise that they aren't just numbers, they are human beings," she said.

The emergency department at Limerick is being used to accommodate an overspill of patients waiting to be admitted to wards on top of its usual A&E responsibilities.

Letters demanding Health and Safety Executive (HSE) intervention and a review of hospital resources were handed in to the Taoiseach and Dr Reilly.

Sarah Watkins, a nurse with 20 years' experience, said: "Catastrophe is inevitable. This is a cry for help. Local management has been unable to help us, so we've had to take our case nationally."

An average day at Limerick's emergency ward can see 30 people on trollies waiting to be admitted to a ward, on top of about 150 people who walk through the doors, including those with minor injuries and in need of acute care.

The department is staffed by 11 nurses at a time.

INMO industrial relations officer Mary Fogarty said the main aim of the protest was to secure safe care for patients.

She added: "We are also calling for immediate discussions on, and the early implementation of, the recommendations of the report from the special delivery unit of the Department of Health.

"All recognise that this dispute must be resolved and that high-level intervention from within the HSE is at this stage essential."

Talks aimed at preventing further work stoppages and resolving the overcrowding issue ended unsuccessfully last week at the Labour Relations Commission.

Ms Watkins said: "Someone is going to die if nothing is done about it - whether on a trolley or toilet - and we will have a massive outcry from the public.

"A huge proportion of patients that are left on trollies for up to 26 hours at a time are aged 70 to 80, and when you have an overcrowded department there's an increased risk of cross infection.

"You have trollies lined up next to each other like double beds. The patients are on top of each other. It's an infringement of their human rights - ethically and morally."

Nurse Bridget O'Donnell said staff were left exhausted by trying to do the impossible.

"You walk into work in the morning and you think 'how am I going to get through today?'," she added.

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