NURSES working at Naas General Hospital have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in the ongoing row about overcrowding.
In a ballot held by their union, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the nursing staff voted by a margin of almost 90 per cent to start striking.
Should the industrial action go ahead, it is likely to start in early September and initially amount to a strict work to rule.
Nurses have been complaining about what they allege are unsafe working working conditions and INMO representative Derek Reilly said that nursing staff were exasperated with the situation and are concerned about patient safety.
“The reason we voted for industrial action is emergency department overcrowding. There are people on trolleys around the hospital and there are not enough nurses to manage overcrowding,” he said.
Ironically, the number of patients on beds at the hospital on Monday (yesterday) was just four – one of the lowest in the region and only two more than the corresponding figure for Friday last (July 22).
Mr. Reilly told the Journal.ie that the INMO wants the HSE to open up the 24 closed beds in the hospital as well as the newly furbished medical assessment unit – but additional staff are needed.
“We need at least one nurse to six patients and occasionally you could have 20 patients to one nurse,” he claimed. “This isn’t about the budget, it’s about patient safety.”
He also said that on a daily basis staff and management in Naas General Hospital work to ensure safe and appropriate care is provided to patients in the hospital’s Emergency Department.
The HSE told the Leinster Leader the hospital is just two doctors short of the approximate 50 doctors assigned to the facility.
The executive has also pointed out that junior doctors are coming to Ireland from India and Pakistan to fill the vacancies.
HSE representative Dympna Bracken also said the HSE does not anticipate any significant impact on patient services at the hospital.
Yesterday the executive declained to comment on the outcome of strike other than to say that hospital management is awaiting formal notification of the ballot from the INMO.
Figures produced recently by the nurses’ group indicate that just over 3,000 patients were on trolleys at the hospital during the six month period between January and June this year.
The union last week accused the HSE of placing patients on trolleys all over the hospital in a bid to “play down” the patient-on-trolley figures.
But the HSE maintains that “everything possible” is being done to reduce waiting times but this depends on the numbers going through the A and E department.
The HSE has insisted that the trolley figures produced by the nurses’ organisation are collected early in the day and before some patients are assigned a ward bed or, in other cases, are discharged from the hospital, having been treated.