Nurses in Galway Universal Hospital vote for industrial action

INMO says decision taken as conditions for staff and patients at a ‘ grossly unsafe’ level

Nurses  protest at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin last week over overcrowding in the emergency department. Union members in Galway have now voted in favour of industrial action. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Nurses protest at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin last week over overcrowding in the emergency department. Union members in Galway have now voted in favour of industrial action. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

Nurses at Galway University Hospital have voted in favour of industrial action in response to overcrowding at the facility.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) said members in the hospital’s emergency department would commence a work to rule on February 3rd after a ballot returned a unanimous verdict in favour of industrial action.

During the work to rule, union members in the emergency department will provide clinical care to patients but they will not get involved in administrative or clerical work as they do at present.

The number of people waiting for admission on trolleys and in hospital wards around the State reached a record high of 601 last Tuesday, according to the INMO’s trolley watch survey, following a surge in presentations by patients after the Christmas holidays.

The previous record was 569, a level which the former minister for health James Reilly had vowed would “never again” be repeated.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, who was criticised for his response to the overcrowding issue, on Sunday warned that a possible surge in flu cases and the impending changeover of junior hospital posts may put further pressure on emergency departments.

He has disputed the claim that last week’s figures represented a record high in the number of patients on trolleys, saying the way the INMO arrives at the figure has changed. However, he acknowledged that the figure was still “far too high”.

Mr Varadkar said the number on trolleys in wards had fallen to 209 on Sunday.

The HSE said hospitals had invoked plans to open additional overflow areas, cut back on non-emergency surgery, provide additional testing facilities and strengthen the discharge planning for patients to address the overcrowding.

Anne Burke, an INMO executive and clinical nurse manager at the emergency department, said conditions for staff and patients had reached “an intolerable and grossly unsafe” level.

“It is no longer possible to provide professional and high standards of care to vulnerable patients in such unsafe, under-staffed and immoral conditions.”

Clare Treacy, an industrial relations office with the union, said the unsatisfactory situation would be compounded by a plan to temporarily close 19 acute beds to facilitate a building project.

“ The idea of closing beds in such circumstances is simply incredible and alarming,” she said.

INMO members at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin last week served notice of industrial action beginning on January 27th. Ballots were also to held of union members at hospitals in Drogheda, Naas, Mullingar, and Limerick.