Figures released this evening have confirmed that January 2018 was the worst month ever for hospital overcrowding in Ireland.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) recorded 21,201 people waiting on trolleys in Irish hospitals across the month.
The nursing union warned that the figures mark an 18% increase on last year – and a 128% increase on 2007.
INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha told Newstalk that the ongoing situation is unacceptable:
“I just cannot understand how any employer can allow the environments that now exist to continue,” she said.
“Both from a staff health and wellbeing point of view to the absolute lack of dignity that is afforded [to] ordinary people who are sick; who are referred by GPs to the ED department.”
She said the overcrowding now amounts to a “humanitarian crisis” for patients, and warned that the INMO will now “have to take the necessary steps to protect the safety, health and welfare of our members.”
She said health employers have “completely fallen down” on their statutory obligation to provide nurses with a safe working environment.
“INMO members cannot be expected to tolerate such appalling and dangerous working environments,” she said.
“It seems to us that all standards with regard to fire safety, personal protection, infection control and hygiene have gone out the window and no statutory authority or employer is prepared to look in.”
The INMO has called representatives from Emergency Departments all over the country to attend a special meeting next Tuesday to consider how best to respond to the crisis.
Ms Ni Sheaghdha said she expects to face calls for action to defend INMO members and the public.”