Nurses strike: What patients need to know
Q&A: All outpatient appointments on Tuesday and Thursday have been cancelled
Under contingency plans, no triage service will operate except in children’s hospital emergency units. File image: Frank Miller
The planned 24-hour nurses’ strikes starting at 8am on Tuesday and Thursday will affect different patients in different way. Here are some of the scenarios:
I have a medical appointment in my local hospital on Tuesday or Thursday but haven’t received a letter. What should I do?
All outpatient appointments in all hospitals - adult, children’s and maternity - are cancelled for the day. The HSE will be in contact with you to reschedule.
I am due to have an operation on Tuesday or Thursday. Will it go ahead?
Inpatient surgery (inpatient means you stay overnight) is cancelled, except for cancer surgery. Day case procedures, which do not involve an overnight stay, are also cancelled.
I’m pregnant: What if I feel I need medical attention?
Pregnant women who need urgent assessment due to the cancellation of an appointment are being advised to go to the emergency admission room of their maternity hospital.
Don’t worry, you will be able to have your baby if the time is right. Delivery suites, special care baby units and neonatal units, and home birth services will be operating.
Planned obstetric procedures will go ahead, “based on clinical need”, according to the HSE. Limited screening of newborns will also take place.
Abortions will be confined to women in danger of going over the 12-week time limit if they are delayed.
A family member has been unwell all week. What if we have a medical emergency on Tuesday or Thursday?
Emergency departments will be open, for both adult and children. The HSE is advising people to attend only “if absolutely necessary”.
But it’s winter and the EDs are already full of trolleys. How chaotic will it be when there’s a strike on?
It is hard to say. Under contingency plans, no triage service will operate except in children’s hospital emergency units, unless they are done by a doctor. Just two nurses will staff the floor of each large emergency department, with two more assigned to the resuscitation area and two to support.
The weather could make things worse, with freezing temperatures and possibly snow forecast for the day of the strike. Local injury units will be closed, so that could put more pressure on EDs.
So what services are operating then?
If you are a cancer patient, your chemo and radiotherapy appointments will take place as normal (as will urgent cancer surgery).
So will dialysis, palliative care and colposcopy services.
Nursing homes and centres of people with an intellectual disability will be operating, as well as planned essential services delivered at home.
Note, however, that day centres operated by the HSE and some agencies where nurses are employed will be closed (you should already have been notified).
Routine community nursing and health centre clinics involving nurses will be cancelled, as will day outpatient appointments in community nursing hospitals.