The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has written to the Health Service Executive (HSE) calling for an emergency meeting to discuss unsafe levels of hospital overcrowding.
The union is seeking the meeting with the HSE’s Emergency Department Taskforce, citing “hazardous conditions” due to the current pressure on emergency services. It said overcrowding is creating risks to its nursing and midwifery members, as well as patients.
INMO president and emergency department nurse Karen McGowan said the current situation is “very unsafe”.
“Our members simply don’t have the reserves to cope with this level of pressure anymore,” she added.
The INMO’s members who work in emergency departments will meet to agree the health and safety measures needed to protect themselves and their patients.
The daily trolley count shows the number of admitted patients waiting for beds continues to increase, despite the continued risk of the transmission of Covid-19 within hospitals. The organisation said some hospitals are now approaching or have surpassed pre-pandemic levels of overcrowding, the union said.
The INMO said that over 22,000 patients have been treated on trolleys so far this year, with 2,800 of them on trolleys this month. June’s trolley count so far is almost double that seen in the same period in 2020. Almost 4,000 people were treated on trolleys last month, which is more than triple the number seen in May 2020.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said this is not the time to be reckless with overcrowding and patient safety as the risk of transmission of the coronavirus within hospitals has not gone away.
“We have seen overcrowding creep up steadily for over a year, without any meaningful action being taken… What we need from Government and the HSE is a concrete plan to deal with this situation before it becomes even more dangerous,” she said.
Ms McGowan called on the HSE to begin addressing the issue of burnout of its staff, saying it is “not acceptable” to continue to rely on the goodwill and professionalism of nurses.
The HSE must develop a “viable plan” for safe staffing, she said, adding: “Frontline workers have given 100 per cent throughout the pandemic, and if conditions don’t improve it will be very difficult to retain nurses and midwives in the health service over the coming years.”