Nurse strike threat remains after Varadkar meeting

INMO calls for 300 extra staff to ease overcrowding in emergency departments

Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation protesting last month outside Leinster House. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation protesting last month outside Leinster House. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Co-ordinated industrial action in a number of hospital emergency departments over the overcrowding crisis “cannot be ruled out,” according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

The union’s executive committee meets on Tuesday to decide whether to sanction industrial action over the problems caused by increasing overcrowding in some hospitals.

This follows a meeting today of emergency department (ED) nurses from around the country, which was addressed by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar, who spent over two hours at the closed meeting, said it was useful to learn first-hand about the stresses ED nurses were working under.

“There was a lot I’d heard before, but I did learn some new things,” he said.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said while industrial action was a last resort, a number of branches were “seriously considering” it in the worst-affected hospital “to focus management’s mind”.

“What else are they supposed to do? They’re presiding over unsafe standards of care, and their own health and welfare is suffering.”

Mr Doran said he had never been has concerned about the issue as he is going into the coming winter period. Staff levels were very low and the ability to recruit was limited.

He called on the HSE to recruit 300 additional nurses to staff the 300 beds promised by the Minister by the end of the year to help ease the problem.

Mr Varadkar said a plan was not in place to tackle the issues, and €100 million was being provided to fund it. The most important thing now was to implement this plan.

He said the issue of industrial action wasn’t raised at the meeting. While staff had a right to take industrial action, “I don’t know how this would benefit the patients”.

The Minister said he knew exactly how bad the problem was, and how it was getting worse, but the focus now had to be on solutions.

There were 308 patients waiting this morning on trolleys or in wards for admission to hospital, according to the INMO’s daily count.

The trolley count was up 17 per cent last month compared to the same month a year earlier, and 28 per cent in the first nine months of this year compared to 2014.