A WARD in Tallaght hospital has been turned into a staff canteen -- while patients are forced to lie on trolleys in corridors due to a lack of beds.
The Burkitt Ward, which closed only last year, can accommodate 31 patients in what remains a fully functioning ward.
However, hospital management insisted the ward could not be used to assist patients as they do not have the staff to man it.
On one day last week, 39 patients were on trolleys in Tallaght Hospital. However, 31 of these patients could have been accommodated in the Burkitt ward if it had been reopened.
Our pictures show staff using the Burkitt Ward as a canteen. Food trolleys have been placed where beds used to be, while patients were forced to remain in corridors.
It can clearly be seen where the beds had been positioned in the past, with oxygen lines, power supplies and emergency bells still in place.
The rails that used to hold the curtains separating the beds are still there, and chairs that visitors used to sit on are now used by staff as they drink their tea and coffee at tables with catering tablecloths on them.
The nurse's station is being used to store kitchen equipment such as soup heaters and bread baskets, as well as kitchen utensils and trolleys with boxes of food.
One six-bed room is the main serving area, complete with coffee dispensers, a chill cabinet, tables with scones and confectionery, and a cash register.
Today, Derek Reilly of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said he believed the Burkitt Ward could be opened within days if authorities really wanted.
"I've asked hospital management to open the ward but they say it won't solve the problem," he said.
"But I think the staff are there and it should be opened in the short term."
Tallaght Hospital deputy CEO Ann Donovan disagreed, telling the Herald that there were not enough staff to run the ward.
"It is just not possible," she said, adding that the Burkitt ward was being used as a temporary canteen because of a fire in the permanent one.
But Mr Reilly said that when the ward was closed last summer, he was told it was for refurbishment.
"The fact that the ward is being used as a canteen now shows that management have no plans to reopen it," he said.
"They have proposed putting patients on trolleys in places around the hospital to help problems in A&E, but it would be better to give them beds where there was space for them."