More nurses vote to work to rule
Nurses in Limerick have backed colleagues in other hospitals by voting overwhelmingly in favour of a work to rule over the overcrowding crisis in emergency units.
The staff at the University Hospitals Group, including University Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, will stop admin on Tuesday February 3.
The move follows similar ballots in Galway University Hospital and Beaumont in Dublin after the crisis escalated in the first week in January with more than 600 patients languishing on trolleys in need of a bed on a ward.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said nurses will engage only in direct care duties by treating patients.
The INMO said the action was a response to a series of issues over the overcrowding crisis, including the problems locally in University Hospital Limerick, moving patients on trolleys into wards and ward corridors, lack of recruitment, reopening closed beds without new staff, 70-100 staff shortages in Limerick and plans to transfer patients in need of a bed to Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.
Mary Fogarty, the union's industrial relations officer, said the 93% of nurses in favour of a work to rule is a strong message for the Health Service Executive.
"All of the above are issues of patient safety which the INMO has raised directly with the HSE. We acknowledge that additional bed capacity is required in the region but equally this requires the recruitment of nurses, and other support staff, for all proposed new in-patient areas.
INMO members at Beaumont last week served notice of industrial action beginning on January 27 while ballots of nurses in Drogheda, Naas, Mullingar are also being held.
The number of people waiting on trolleys for full admission to a hospital ward hit a record high of 601 a week ago.
The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, with emergency department consultant Mark Doyle as president, has warned that patients will die if the crisis is not resolved.
The worst conditions were reported from Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda - 45 people were waiting for proper beds on wards - 39 on trolleys in emergency departments and another six squeezed in elsewhere on corridors and in wards.
Beaumont Hospital in north Dublin, which recorded 41 people waiting on trolleys, cancelled operations planned for this week, except for cancer treatments, to clear corridors and crowded wards.
The overcrowding was at levels never seen before, surpassing crisis points which sparked previous commitments and rapid responses from governments in 2006 and 2011.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has warned that the crisis will not abate quickly with the changeover of junior doctors and the traditional flu season expected to compound problems in the coming weeks.
On then back of the latest ballot result, the INMO's daily trolley watch report revealed 433 patients waiting for full admission to a bed on a hospital ward.
Beaumont was the worst in the country with 49 people on trolleys including five people in ward areas, while 35 were waiting for beds in Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, west Dublin and 31 in Letterkenny.
Two hospitals had 30 people on trolleys - the Midland Regional in Mullingar and University Hospital Galway.