The HSE has admitted that they do not have a plan to deal with extra patients this winter, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has revealed.
The revelation came during a meeting at the Workplace Relations Commission today (Friday), where the INMO met with HSE and Department of Health officials.
The HSE also admitted that they have been unable to fill 169 nursing posts in emergency departments across Ireland, for which they have funding.
On top of this, an additional 57 nurses would be required to provide minimum levels of safe care, according to recognised staffing ratios. Yet extra funding for the posts is not available.
During the meeting, officials also revealed that they have not decided how to ensure safe staffing in emergency departments this winter, reduce services elsewhere to increase emergency department resources and guarantee replacements for nurses who are on maternity leave.
Speaking after the meeting, an emergency department nurse and INMO member said: “It’s impossible to think that things could get any worse. But winter is coming and there’s still no plan. It will simply be impossible to provide safe care.
“Emergency departments are overcrowded now, in summer. They’ll be war zones once winter comes.”
INMO Director of Industrial Relations, Tony Fitzpatrick, said: “Despite record overcrowding this summer, the HSE still don’t have a plan to deal with winter. Community health services are being cut, so emergency departments will face a tsunami of desperate patients with nowhere else to go.
“The recruitment and retention crisis is deepening, with hundreds of nursing vacancies in hospitals across Ireland. Nurses and midwives will be protesting at some of the worst-affected hospitals in the coming weeks. We cannot go on like this. The HSE has to be honest with the public.”
Nurses and midwives will go on lunchtime protests next week. As of yet, the current demonstrations are:
Galway University Hospital - Monday 10th September
Cork University Hospital - Tuesday 11th September
Limerick University Hospital - Tuesday 11th September.