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James Horan/Photocall Ireland

HSE appeals to Limerick nurses to call off strike

Nurses say they will strike as conditions at the hospital are “appalling” and unsafe for patients and staff. They intend to strike for four hours tomorrow.

THE HSE HAS appealed to nurses at Limerick’s Mid Western Regional Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) to call off a strike planned for tomorrow.

More than 70 nurses, who are mainly members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and some members of SIPTU, intend to cease working and instead hold a picket line between the hours of 1pm to 5pm.

This afternoon, the HSE issued a statement asking nurses to call off the work stoppage, saying they had “encountered an extraordinary lack of cooperation in normal contingency planning for the stoppage which represented a new, unwelcome and potentially dangerous departure in industrial action by nursing unions”.

The organisation said that the nursing cover offered by the INMO of four staff is “inadequate and unacceptable”.

It said that “no useful purpose” would be served by the strike and that it would exacerbate pressures in Dooradoyle which the unions say they are protesting against.

HSE Mid West area manager, Bernard Gloster said:

In a situation where  extra funding is not, and will not be, available from the government, and all concerned know this full well, it would make better sense to sit down and see how we can best utilise the resources we have. There is no prospect of overtime payments and agency nursing being restored.

In this regard it is vital that we call focus on the solutions including the establishment of a new 24-hour acute medical assessment unit, the introduction of new rosters and redeployment of nurses to areas of greatest need in the hospital.  New rosters become even more important in light of the need to maintain and improve services in a financially constrained context. Other areas on which we must focus include our skill mix and the need to reduce absenteeism.

The HSE also described risk issues arising from overcrowding at the ED as “a problem for the entire hospital to deal with” and that hospital management should accept that they have to put up extra beds in wards, which is a lesser risk than a build-up of trolleys in the ED.

INMO members at the hospital say they are undertaking this action because of the “appalling conditions” for patients and the clinical safety risks which they say are caused by a number of factors.

They say their concerns include:

  • The current moratorium on the recruitment of nurses
  • The closure of 100 acute hospital beds and 80 other beds in the region
  • The failure of the reconfiguration process to transfer all day surgery to Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals, and to adhere to the recommendation for an additional 135 beds if this was successful
  • Imposed budget cuts
  • Failure to fund additional consultant posts and to employ additional nursing staff and other key members for these posts
  • Failure by the HSE to comply with the nationally agreed Escalation Plan on Emergency Department Overcrowding.

INMO Industrial Relations Officer, Mary Fogarty said that nurses have repeatedly raised their concerns to HIQA and senior HSE management:

Unfortunately, due to the inability of both bodies to address the deplorable clinical environment now visible daily at the hospital, nurses are driven to publicly highlight the extremely serious situation through industrial action.
The INMO has called upon HIQA, An Bord Altranais (Nursing Board) and the Medical Council to inspect the Mid Western Regional Hospital, and other acute hospitals, to establish the impact on patient care and safe practice arising from continuous overcrowding.

Mary Fogarty said that the INMO met with senior HSE staff at the hospital yesterday.

I’d say they have an expectation that this will not proceed and that is probably part of the problem, them not recognising how resolute our members are in respect of the unsafe conditions at the hospital.

Two years ago, the HSE decided to put trolleys on the wards to alleviate some of the overcrowding in the ED, but Forgarty said “the hospital is worse than it ever was”.

Some beds are opened on an “ad hoc basis”, added Fogarty. “It’s extremely overcrowded, it’s unsafe in terms of trying to deliver safe care.”

We are under extreme pressure to cope with the volume of patients on the wards, yet the hospital continues with all elective case work .

A special contingent of staff from the Department of Health visited the hospital yesterday and spoke to nurses on the wards about the situation.

Read: Nurses in four-hour strike over ‘safety risks’ at hospital>

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