Nurses to strike after talks fail to reach deal on 'staffing crisis'
Nurses have vowed to press ahead with strikes at emergency departments claiming four days of talks with the Government failed to produce specific and immediate measures to address staffing levels.
The Irish Nurses' and Midwives' Organisation (INMO) said A&E units are operating with 60% of the required nurses with walkouts now set to take place next Tuesday.
Seven hospitals will be affected by the strike - Beaumont and Tallaght in Dublin, the Mercy Hospital in Cork, the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore, Cavan General Hospital, University Hospital Galway and University Hospital Waterford - with two hour rolling stoppages being held between 8am and 4pm.
The INMO said nurses will completely withdraw services while maintaining an emergency response team in an adjacent area.
And the union vowed to launch further strikes in mid and late January unless progress is made to end the overcrowding crisis which sees hundreds of people waiting on trolleys for beds in wards.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said four days of talks did not produce any specific proposals from management to aid recruitment and retention of staff.
"This action is about recognising the plight for patients and staff, in our emergency departments, and ending the indifference towards both that has existed, within management, over the past 12 years of chronic overcrowding," he said.
The INMO claimed the only proposal put forward by health chiefs was to set up taskforces and working groups to report on the crisis in the medium term.
Its daily count of people on trolleys in hospitals showed 3,045 patients waiting for beds on wards in the first 11 days of December.
The union accepted the numbers were down on last year but warned the overcrowding remained severe with 144 staff vacancies in emergency units in seven hospitals.
It also said management have a target of reducing the number of patients waiting for a bed each day to 236.
Mr Doran added: "This dispute is responding to the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health's confirmation that emergency departments will continue to be very overcrowded into the future. In that context, we must staff them appropriately and create, and maintain, the best possible environment for patients and staff.
"This cannot be done without addressing the staffing crisis which, in turn, requires recruitment and retention initiatives. This will cost money but it does not involve a breach of existing agreements.
"The situation has not been helped by the lack of clarity, and lack of urgency, from the management side which is made up of a number of parties including the Department of Health/HSE/Voluntary Hospitals/IBEC, all with, apparently, differing priorities."
The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, which includes Tallaght and Tullamore, warned the strike may cause knock on disruption during the day and disrupt services in other hospitals in the group, St James', Naas and Portlaoise.
Walk-outs will hit T allaght from 10am to 12pm on Tuesday and Tullamore from 12pm to 2pm.
Patients are being advised to only go to an emergency unit if it is "absolutely essential" and to call on GPs or pharmacists for advice.
Some non-urgent elective procedures will be cancelled in Tallaght and Tullamore.