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Dublin: 9 °C Monday 18 March, 2019
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'Elderly patients are being kept on trolleys for days'

Nurses brought their anger at overcrowding to the gates of the Dáil today.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Updated: 18.23

ELDERLY PATIENTS ARE having to wait on trolleys for days, according to nurses who protested against hospital overcrowding today.

Dozens of nurses from all over the country attended the demonstration, which took place outside Leinster House. The turnout was lower than expected due to treacherous road conditions in certain areas.

Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) working in University Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, Naas General Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action.

It came after nurses at Galway University Hospital voted for the action yesterday and a week after Beaumont Hospital also announced its intention of going on a work to rule next month.

Speaking at the protest, Theresa Dixon, a clinical nurse manager at Naas General Hospital, said patients are being “deprived of dignity and respect”.

“We are no longer able to provide safe care to our patients. Our hospitals are dangerous.

It is completely unacceptable to see an elderly patient lying on a trolley for days. It is completely unacceptable to see patients who have no access to toilet facilities and washing facilities, who are being assessed in areas where there isn’t even a screen to cover them.

Dixon said the situation has come to a head as nurses have reached breaking point and are “very frustrated at the lack of response by successive governments”.

She said a lack of beds was not the only issue, as there is a shortage of nurses too.

Nurses Protest. Pictured Nurses (LtoR) Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Muireann O’Sullivan, a nurse who also works at Naas General Hospital, said staff are leaving work “exhausted” on a daily basis.

Morale is at an all-time low, we just feel as though we’re not doing our job. We don’t want to be put on a pedestal, we just want to go and do our job. All we want to do is nurse.The way we are treating the most vulnerable people in our society is unacceptable, it’s unforgivable.

O’Sullivan said the Department of Health and HSE cannot simply “throw money at this situation”, adding that they need to look at where it is being spent – particularly in relation to primary care and nursing home beds.

She said the planned work-to-rule will “absolutely” turn into a strike if overcrowding is not properly addressed.

Seven-year low

Earlier today, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said while there is a “chronic” overcrowding issue in several emergency departments, the number of people on trolleys was at a seven-year low today.

Claire Mahon, President of the INMO, said the figures have reduced on paper because additional beds have been placed on wards that “don’t have the capacity for them”.

“So to say that the trolley count is down in our ED departments – it’s only because the problem has been moved and dispersed ac the hospital. It has diluted the problem.

[Nurses] are so frustrated with the ongoing situation, it’s impossible for them to do their jobs. People can’t understand what that means whe you’re a nurse and you go into work to give care and you come home in the evening knowing that you weren’t able to do your best.

“You’re seeing patients in situations that are putting them at risk. None of us want that. Staff work very hard. It’s emotionally draining, it’s physically draining. Staff are going without breaks so they can do the extra bit. It’s almost like it’s a spiral to the bottom at this stage. To go in and face that every day is extremely difficult.”

SIPTU is launching a ‘Ready to Work’ protest campaign at hospitals across the country tomorrow to highlight the role home helps can play in alleviating the hospital crisis. There will be protests outside the accident and emergency department at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown and at St James Hospital in Dublin 8.

Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan

Originally published: 6.30am

Read: Nurses at four more hospitals announce plans to go on work-to-rule >

More: Irish hospitals aren’t the only ones dealing with an overcrowding crisis >

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Órla Ryan

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