Nurses to vote on industrial action in A&E units

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says hospital staff are ‘beyond breaking point’

 A patient on a trolley in a hospital corridor. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A patient on a trolley in a hospital corridor. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Nurses will be balloted next month on industrial action in hospital emergency departments across the State, unless independent safety reviews of each unit are carried out.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said it will start a nationwide ballot of emergency department members in the first week of November unless “significant progress” is made in four critical areas.

The union deferred a threat of an immediate vote on industrial action in recognition of its “constructive engagement” with Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, who attended a meeting of emergency department (ED) nurses on Monday.

The number of patients waiting on trolleys or in wards for admission to hospital broke through the 400 barrier this morning.

A total of 434 patients were waiting on trolleys or in wards, including 48 patients in Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda and 41 patients in University Hospital Limerick.

The union says it wants the immediate introduction of recruitment and retention initiatives to address unsafe staffing levels.

It is also seeking greater support for staff, including an immediate health and safety review of A&E units by an independent expert, to report within four weeks, and a review of hospital escalation policies.

The union also wants clinical decision-makers to be more present, throughout an extended work day and seven days a week, to ensure patients are assessed.

Progress is also being sought in providing nursing staff with increased access to diagnostics on the same extended, 7/7 basis.

The INMO executive council, which met today to decide whether to sanction industrial action over persistent overcrowding in hospital emergency departments, wants discussions to start immediately with the HSE on its demands.

‘Breaking point’

Speaking today, INMO general secretary Liam Doran said ED nurses were “beyond breaking point” and feared constantly for their patients and their own health and well-being.

“The four critical areas identified must now be the subject of immediate, positive and constructive engagement, which will address the critical issues of staffing, enhanced supports, senior clinical decision-making and access to diagnostics.”

Mr Doran said industrial action should be used only as a last resort: “However, after 12 years of waiting for improvements, and unfulfilled promises, the time for action is now.”