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Crisis point? Nurses will refuse to do office work or answer phones in protest

INMO members at St Vincent’s Hospital will hold a protest on Monday.

Image: Mark Stedman

Updated 10am

NURSES AT ST VINCENT’S University Hospital have voted to take industrial action next week over the overcrowding problem in the Emergency Department.

Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) say more than 100 patients are regularly being kept on trolleys, well over the 18-trolley capacity for the department.

According to the union, “An inability to recruit and retain nurses has made it very difficult to provide safe care for patients and it is an intolerable working environment for members.”

On Monday, nurses will hold a lunchtime protest at the entrance to the hospital from 1pm to 2pm.

The next day – which is also when ministers Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin will reveal Budget 2016 – they will begin a work to rule from 8am.

During this period, they will withdraw from all clerical work, any non-nursing duties, use of IT systems and answering any phone except two emergency ambulance phones.

They say the work to rule will allow them more time for “direct patient care”. Until now, patients have been subjected to “unacceptable conditions” as they are unable to be provided with “the most basic standard of privacy and dignity”, the nurses claim.

A spokesperson for St Vincent’s acknowledged the “immense pressure” being experienced in the Emergency Department but said the hospital “deeply regrets” the nurses’ decision.

The hospital said it has implemented a number of measures to help matters in the Emergency Department. However, it added:

It should also be noted that the hospital capacity challenges facing SVUH are bigger than this hospital, and reflects both a shortage of beds across the wider hospital system and a need for greater investment in step-down care in the community for patients no longer requiring acute care in a hospital setting.

A contingency plan will be put in place to minimise disruption next week.

Trolley watch

The INMO continues to believe that the figures given to them by management for its daily trolley watch statistics are “understated”. The union numbers for January to September this year indicate that 3,750 patients spent time on a trolley at St Vincent’s ED – a jump of 134% on 2014.

Nurses balloted voted to commence the campaign of industrial action. The INMO will continue to poll emergency department staff regarding possible further industrial action in November if “significant progress” is not made in critical areas by health service management.

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

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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