NURSES at the A&E in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital have voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of industrial action, saying the closure of 25 beds by the HSE last month was endangering patients.
Although talks are continuing, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has warned the mandate given by its members means industrial action could take place within three weeks.
And emergency department nurses represented by SIPTU are also balloting over “dangerously low staffing levels and resources”, with official Jim McGrath saying a result is expected by Friday.
The HSE closed the beds as part of a cost-containment plan. By the middle of this year, the Regional was facing a budget deficit in the order of €15 million - the largest faced by any hospital in the country. But nurses said the effect of the bed closures was dangerous overcrowding in the emergency department, where admitted patients are lying on trolleys “while in-patient beds lie empty”.
Industrial relations officer Mary Fogarty said the Regional was currently unsafe for patients.
“The factual situation for our members throughout the hospital is that they find themselves, and the attending patients, in an unsafe situation with overcrowded wards, non-recruitment of essential nurses to deliver appropriate nursing care and to open closed beds, and increasing trolley figures in the emergency department. The INMO view is that all of this is primarily because the hospital was never appropriately equipped or prepared to deal with the reconfiguration of acute hospital services and that the subsequent bed reductions and budget cutbacks have made a bad situation not only worse, but clinically unsafe.”