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Nurses' strike: Public advised to only attend emergency departments if 'absolutely essential'

The action will begin at 8am on Wednesday and finish at 8am on Thursday.
Jan 29th 2019, 12:17 PM 14,661 56

Updated Jan 29th 2019, 1:09 PM

THE HSE HAS asked members of the public only to attend emergency services in hospitals tomorrow if it is absolutely necessary as the nurses strike is set to go ahead. 

This morning HSE officials laid out contingency plans that had been agreed with the INMO so that some vital services can continue during the strike. Emergency services will be operational, but with reduced staff and delays. 

“We would appeal that patients would only attend the emergency services if absolutely essential,” HSE national director of acute operations Liam Woods told reporters.

Dr Colm Henry said the HSE is in active dialogue with strike committees at every site to ensure a “responsive and safe” service tomorrow. 

“People may experience increased delays of course because other aspects of unscheduled care such as local injury units or acute medical assessment units will not be open.”

On Sunday, the HSE released details of its plans to deal with the potential action.

About 13,000 outpatient appointments have been cancelled as well as 2,000 elective procedures (some urgent procedures such as cancer procedures will go ahead) and the HSE said 10,500 older persons and individuals in intellectual disability services will be impacted.

GP services and GP out-of-hours services are operating as normal.

Local injury units will not be operational and “if subsequent days of action proceed there will be a cumulative effect”, Woods warned. 

Patients whose appointments and surgeries have been cancelled will be given priority in the weeks that follow the strike. The HSE said these patients will be contacted directly. 

“We will prioritise rescheduling as we have done, for example at times like Storm Emma, that’s doable in the context of a day, but it does have an impact and we will be alert to the fact that our ability to treat further patients in a timely manner could be compromised, particularly if we move beyond one day of action,” Woods said. 

“Our intention will be to prioritise rescheduling for patients/clients who miss service tomorrow,” he said. 

In the event of a major emergency tomorrow, the HSE said there would be an emergency response. 

The Labour Court ended last night without an agreement. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said that strike preparations for the 24-hour stoppage continue and that the court will decide later today on whether or not formal intervention in the dispute is necessary. 

The action will begin at 8am tomorrow and finish at 8am on Thursday.

The INMO, which has over 40,000 members, announced strike action earlier this month. In a ballot held in November, over 90% of members that were polled voted in favour of industrial action.

Nurses have argued for measures to deal with what they called the recruitment and retention crisis among members. They said that increasing nurses’ pay was the only way to retain nurses, and that this, in turn, would improve working conditions.

 With reporting by Cónal Thomas and Michelle Hennessy.

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Hayley Halpin

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