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Trouble Brewing

Nurses threaten strike action as Galway mental health staff refuse to work over safety concerns

The INMO’s announcement comes on foot of an incident at the mental health unit of University Hospital Galway on Friday.

Updated 8.45 am

THE IRISH NURSES AND Midwives Organisation (INMO) is to poll emergency department staff regarding possible industrial action in November if “significant progress” is not made in critical areas by health service management.

The announcement coincides with the news that staff at a mental health unit refused to work last Friday night until concerns for their own safety were addressed.

The four critical areas that the INMO want to see progress in are:

  • Immediate action on unsafe staffing levels
  • Greater support from hospital managements with regards to emergency department staff
  • Increased, immediate senior clinical presence in all emergency departments
  • Increased access to diagnostics for nursing staff on a 7/7 basis

“Our emergency departments are beyond breaking point and they fear, constantly, for their patients and their own health and wellbeing,” said INMO general secretary Liam Doran.

liam doran Liam Doran

The four critical areas identified must now be the subject of immediate, positive and constructive engagement.


Meanwhile, nurses at University Hospital Galway’s in-patient unit have raised concerns over inadequate staffing levels.

A row over this particular situation previously resulted in industrial action which was escalated to the Labour Relations Commission.

Staff have repeatedly said there are not enough nursing staff to provide the one-on-one nursing care required.

They say a number of patients have “highly challenging behaviour”.


Between January and May this year staff were assaulted 36 times, nurses claimed.

Speaking about Friday’s incident, Galway East TD Colm Keaveney said that the situation “was left unresolved for several hours with daytime staff left working overtime as night-duty refused to come on”.

A slow response from management has been criticised.

“This is not the first time this has happened,” Keaveney said

It is one of several such staff-management stand offs in the last year.

He said much of the difficulties are a consequence of the closure of the 25-bed acute in-patient unit in St Brigid’s Hospital, Balllinasloe.

The Fianna Fáil mental health spokesperson called on Health Minister Leo Varadkar to “step aside from his role as a commentator on the health service and take personal responsibility for resolving this issue”.

The PNA’s Noel Giblin said that staff refused to work on Friday night until adequate staffing arrangements were put in place. Day staff worked overtime until this time.

“They couldn’t take up duty until it was made safe for them do so,” he explained.

Giblin added that a specialised unit at the hospital that would free up staff by allowing patients to safely remain unsupervised has yet to open.

Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh described the situation as “absolute chaos”, adding that “there are very serious health and safety issues in the unit at present which must be addressed immediately”.

We shouldn’t need another tragedy in relation to this unit for the hospital group and the government to live up to their commitments.

The Department of Health and the HSE have been contacted for comment.

With reporting by Órla Ryan and Cianan Brennan

Related: Determined campaigners continue call for independent review of psychiatric unit closure

Read: ‘She was kind and considerate. She never realised how much she was loved’

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