Two of the largest nursing unions have requested a public inquiry into the reasons behind the gross overcrowding in local emergency departments, particularly at the University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
The INMO and SIPTU confirmed that their ballot for industrial action will start on Monday, January 5 in protest to the HSE’s response to chronic and persistent overcrowding at University Hospital, Limerick.
Nurses are also up in arms over HSE plans to place additional patients in excess of agreed bed capacity at Ennis and Nenagh hospitals and the transfer of medical patients to Croom Hospital without agreement with the unions.
In a statement issued to the Clare Champion, the unions claimed there was a critical shortage of qualified nurses throughout the region with a conservative figure of 70 to 100 additional nurses required immediately on permanent contracts.
The unions warned the current escalation plan will present health and safety risks to staff as well as clinical risks to patients.
According to the unions, the latest plan will result in 13 additional patients in Ennis Hospital with no additional nurses and only one doctor on site.
It pointed out the practice of placing additional trolleys/beds on in-patient wards, was a “failed plan” from a previous management team.
They also criticised efforts to promote a tolerance of 20 admitted patients waiting over night on trolleys in the Emergency Department (ED).
Based on past experiences, they warned clogging up the health system with trolleys and additional beds on wards will not address the root cause of Emergency Department overcrowding.
Nurses are calling for the implementation of a workable and safe bed management plan for the acute hospitals in Mid-West and an agreed HSE protocol, which will allow for the presence of senior clinical decision makers at acute care facilities on a 24 hour basis. This will significantly improve patient access to diagnostics and their journey through the Emergency Department.
They are seeking enhanced step down facilities for frail and/or elderly patients and the recruitment of nurses to fill permanent vacancies within the acute hospital services.
UL Hospitals is disappointed that the IMNO and SIPTU will ballot members for industrial action over the contingency plan put in place to deal with over-crowding in the ED at University Hospital Limerick.
Patient safety remains a core priority for UL Hospitals and its takes seriously concerns raised by staff about patient safety. It is on this basis that the action was taken to transfer patients from an over-crowed ED to trolleys and beds on wards so that patients could be cared for in a more appropriate setting.
The executive management team will conduct a review of the patient care model and continue to engage with staff to ensure that we are able to provide the best possible care to patients in whatever hospital site or ward they are located.