HSE warns of disruption caused by nurses’ strike

All emergency departments will open but delays expected due to reduced staff numbers

Angela Fitzgerald, national director acute hospitals; Dr Colm Henry chief clinical officer; Liam Woods, interim deputy general operations and Bernard Gloster, chief officer for the midwest, during a HSE briefing in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Angela Fitzgerald, national director acute hospitals; Dr Colm Henry chief clinical officer; Liam Woods, interim deputy general operations and Bernard Gloster, chief officer for the midwest, during a HSE briefing in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The HSE has warned of delays and significant disruption at hospital emergency departments as a result of the one-day strike by nurses starting at 8am on Wednesday.

Although all emergency departments will be open, they are expected to be busier than usual on Wednesday because local injury units will be shut due to the strike. Bad weather could also drive increased demand for emergency health services.

With no triage services being provided during the strike except in children’s hospitals, there are concerns over the identification of urgent cases in emergency departments. Just two nurses will staff the floor of each large emergency department, with two more assigned to the resuscitation area and two to support.

HSE director of acute operations Liam Woods told a media briefing on Tuesday it was important the triage function operated. The HSE had agreed some exemptions in specific hospitals for emergency department services and it was still in dialogue with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, whose 40,000 members will be on strike.

“Our intention is to minimise risk,” Mr Woods said. “We recognise it will not be a normal day, so we have reduced planned work to focus on emergency and urgent work.”

“We hope to address any issues that arise as the day unfolds,” he said. Patients should attend emergency departments only if absolutely necessary, according to the HSE.

Asked whether doctors would triage patients, HSE national clinical adviser and programme lead for acute hospitals Colm Henry said it was not a usual part of doctors’ work to triage patients on such a large scale as would be required on Wednesday.

In the event of a major emergency occurring, provisions had been agreed for an appropriate emergency response, Mr Woods said.

All planned in-patient and day-case surgeries, with the exception of cancer surgeries, will be cancelled on Wednesday due to the strike.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy appointments will take place as normal (as will urgent cancer surgery), and dialysis, palliative care and colposcopy services will also operate.

Some 13,000 outpatients appointments have been cancelled, along with 2,000 planned procedures.

Further days of industrial action, as planned by the INMO on two days next week, will have a cumulative impact on wait times and volumes, the HSE warns.