Nurses working at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar are to stage a protest on Monday about what they described as understaffing and excessive workloads which is compromising patient care.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which represents the staff concerned, said the hospital at Mullingar was "facing 50 unfilled nursing shifts over the coming fortnight, falling short of the minimum staffing levels required for safe care".
The INMO said its members were calling on hospital management “to restrict services, close beds and divert scheduled care to private hospitals in order to protect standards of care, patients, and staff.”
The union said attendances at the hospital had increased, while there were currently 50 nursing vacancies of which 29 were permanent. It said this was putting staffing under pressure.
The INMO said it had engaged with the HSE to try and find a resolution to this issue and was not satisfied with the response to safety concerns raised.
It said the hospital aimed to recruit to fill vacant posts, but the shortfall would not be made up until the end of August at the earliest. The union said assistance from St Francis Private Hospital had also been sought.
The Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar and the Ireland East Hospital Group (IEHG) said they regretted the actions on Monday by staff but said they appreciated their frustration.
They said the emergency department at the hospital in Mullingar was “extremely busy with seriously ill patients presenting who have complex needs and require admittance”.
However management said the hospital was also seeing “a high number of patients who do not require urgent care or admission and in these instances there may be delays in for some patients being seen in the department”.
“The hospital continues to ask the public to please consider their care options. Patients with a GP appointment should in the first instance attend their GP. Alternatively, MiDoc is also available. Patients with minor injuries should consider attending the minor injury unit in Longford, where waiting times can be significantly less than in the hospital’s emergency department.”
Hospital management said recruitment remained a priority and that additional staff would commence work over the coming weeks.
INMO assistant director of Industrial Relations Albert Murphy said:
“It has been an incredibly challenging year and our members have had enough. They are facing increasing demands with too few staff. They are rightly concerned that patient care is being compromised.”
“Hospital management need to urgently recruit the necessary staff, but they need to be realistic about the hospital’s current capacity. Work needs to be scaled back to ensure safe care.
“That means closing beds in the short run and making decisions on which care has to be prioritised. Our members cannot be expected to work in environments which compromise their health and safety.”