A threat of strike action is set to disrupt patient services at Naas General Hospital.
Nurses working at the hospital, which serves West Wicklow as well as County Kildare, say they are being forced to consider industrial action because of ongoing bed shortages.
The number of patients on trolleys at the hospital rose to 32 in the middle of last week. This figure fell to 21 on Thursday and there was a further fall to 16 on Friday last but the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation insists that the key to resolving overcrowding in the emergency department is to open beds.
“We have already served notice of industrial action because we need to highlight the problems caused by a staff moratorium and overcrowding. Nurses working in Naas are worried about the problems escalating, especially every weekend,” said INMO industrial relations officer Derek Reilly.
In late July nurses at the hospital voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial action. About 90 percent of nursing staff supported the move.
Notice of the result of this ballot was served on hospital management, which moves possible strike action closer.
“The closed beds have to be opened. There is a safety risk for the patients and for staff because of overcrowding and if the beds are not opened we will take action,” pledged Mr. Reilly.
He said if the beds were opened there would be “no problem” at the hospital.
The HSE has disputed the patient-on-trolleys figures produced by the INMO pointing out that they are compiled early in the morning and before decisions are made to discharge patients from the emergency department. The HSE has also pointed out that beds elsewhere in the hospital may become free after patients are discharged.
Mr. Reilly has countered that the number of patients awaiting treatment at Naas is actually higher because up to ten patients are being accommodated on trolleys elsewhere in the hospital.He also said that between 15 and 20 additional nurses are needed at Naas Hospital adding “but because of the current financial situation I am not holding my breath in anticipation of these being appointed”.
He added that nurses working elsewhere in the hospital had demonstrated flexibility by being prepared to be deployed to the emergency department.
“This is a crisis and everybody is pulling together but more beds must be opened,” he added.