The INMO says the HSE has has been unable to fill 169 nursing jobs ahead of the winter season
Irish nurses have accused the HSE of being totally unprepared for the inevitable influx of extra patients this winter.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) made the claim after a meeting with HSE and Department of Health officials today.
It said officials revealed that they had yet to decide on a plan to ensure safe levels of staffing in Emergency Departments for the winter.
The union also warned that there is also no plan in place to redistribute personnel from other areas towards EDs - or to guarantee stand-in staff to cover maternity leave.
In a statement this afternoon, the union said nurses and midwives will be holding lunchtime protests at some of the worst affected hospitals next week.
INMO Director of Industrial Relations, Tony Fitzpatrick, said the health service is failing to react to chaotic scenes we saw across hospitals last winter – and on into the summer.
“There is a recruitment and retention crisis within Emergency Departments and hospital wards and the situation is getting worse rather than better,” he said.
“A key thing for us is we have just had the highest level of overcrowding in August and the HSE have no plan to alleviate the overcrowding heading into the winter months and they have no plan to address the shortages that currently exist.”
At the meeting, the HSE revealed that it has been unable to fill 169 nursing jobs which it has funding in place for.
The INMO has also warned that on top of that at least 57 new nurses will be needed to provide “minimum levels of safe care” according to recognised patient/staff ratios.
Mr Fitzpatrick said the crisis in recruitment and retention of nursing staff is deepening , with Emergency Departments likely to face a “tsunami of desperate patients with nowhere else to go” this winter.
“Our members who were at the conciliation conference today with the HSE and our members working within emergency departments see no light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“They believe the situation is extremely bad at present.
“They believe patient care is at risk. They believe the health and safety and wellbeing of the staff working with the service is at risk – and yet, the HSE have done nothing.”
Nurses and midwives will be protesting at Galway University Hospital next Monday lunchtime – and Cork and Limerick University Hospitals next Tuesday lunchtime.