Patients are suffering in silence due to a merciless recruitment embargo in the health sector, a union leader claimed today.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (Inmo) said Government and health chiefs had no appreciation of how tough it is on hospital wards as staff numbers drop.
Around 320 delegates will today attend the organisation's three-day annual conference in Trim, Co Meath, where 51 motions will be debated.
Inmo general secretary Liam Doran said top of the agenda would be the Croke Park deal -- to which the executive council has recommended a No vote -- and its alternative agenda for change in the health service.
"The Inmo recommends members say No to these proposals," said Mr Doran.
"We are not threatening industrial action but we simply won't agree to a motion that requires us to expect to have 6,000 more job losses over three years and see the closure of 3,500 beds.
"In our view that is simply not sustainable in a quality health service capable of meeting the needs of Irish people."
Other issues to be highlighted include the recruitment embargo, safe staffing levels, A&E overcrowding and the retention of newly qualified nurses and midwives.
Mr Doran described an 18-month ban on recruitment across the sector as merciless, with essential posts lost through retirements and maternity leave.
"With my hand on my heart I don't think it has ever been this tough," he said ahead of the conference.