Nurses to stage rolling protests outside hospitals

Lunchtime protests over staffing to take place in Limerick, Cork and Galway

Nurses are to stage a series of rolling lunchtime protests outside hospitals in various parts of the country next week to protest at staffing levels and overcrowding in emergency departments.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the HSE told it on Friday it did not have funding to take on an additional 57 nurses which the union argued were needed to provide a minimum level of safe care to admitted patients being boarded in emergency departments while waiting for a hospital bed.

The union also maintained the HSE acknowledged at a meeting at the Workplace Relations Commission that it had been unable to fill 169 nursing posts in emergency departments for which it had funding.

The INMO said the HSE also revealed it did not have a plan to deal with extra patients this winter.


The HSE insisted on Friday however that winter planning was currently well underway.

Finalise plans

It said it was working with the Department of Health, hospital groups and community health organisations to finalise plans as quickly as possible to ensure preparedness for winter.

The HSE said while it did advise the WRC hearing that there are 169 posts currently unfilled – spread across 29 emergency departments – it maintained a significant number of these were currently being filled through agency staff and overtime working arrangements.

“Discussions are ongoing with the Department of Health in relation to funding for an additional 57 nursing posts”, it said.

The talks at the WRC were aimed at overseeing the implementation of an agreement on the operation of emergency departments reached between the union and the HSE in early 2016.

The lunchtime protests by nurses next week – which will not constitute industrial action – will take place at Galway University Hospital on Monday and at Cork University Hospital and Limerick University Hospital on Tuesday.

INMO director of industrial relations Tony Fitzpatrick said: "Despite record overcrowding this summer, the HSE still don't have a plan to deal with winter. Community health services are being cut, so emergency departments will face a tsunami of desperate patients with nowhere else to go."


"The recruitment and retention crisis is deepening, with hundreds of nursing vacancies in hospitals across Ireland. Nurses and midwives will be protesting at some of the worst-affected hospitals in the coming weeks. We cannot go on like this. The HSE has to be honest with the public."

The HSE said it remained committed to minimising delays for patients, and to ensuring that adequate resources were in place in emergency departments throughout the country.

“In this regard, the HSE advised the hearing that the number of nurses employed in emergency departments had increased from 1,231 at end 2015 to 1,500 now, representing an increase of 269 or 22per cent.”

Labour Party health spokesman Alan Kelly said the Minister for Health Simon Harris must publish details of his initiatives to deal with pressures on the health service this winter.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent