Break deadlock plea - consultant appeals for talks to avoid more strike action by nurses this week

Break deadlock plea - consultant appeals for talks to avoid more strike action by nurses this week

Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) on an official picket at CUH last week. Pic; Larry Cummins

URGENT cases could become emergency illnesses unless further strike action from nurses and midwives is avoided, a Cork consultant has warned.

Thousands of procedures and operations have been cancelled in the past fortnight as the INMO and its almost 40,000 members conducted 24-hour strike actions across the country, in a bid to highlight pay disparity and poor working conditions in the sector.

Three consecutive days of strike action are due to begin tomorrow morning after weekend talks failed to break the deadlock.

Conor Deasy, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Cork University Hospital (CUH), said the strikes have had a major impact on the hospital.

“It is having a major impact across the hospital,” he said. “We end up having to manage patients that should be on the wards, in the corridors of the Emergency Department.

“During the strike days, community hospitals don’t take discharges from CUH so those patients end up staying on the wards for longer,” added Dr Deasy.

“That means we can’t get a patient from the ED up into that ward because it’s booked out basically.

“The same thing happens then with theatres which don’t work on strike days.”

Dr Deasy explained that patients are not going to surgery so instead end up on a ward.

“We end up with a lot more patients on corridors because they can’t progress on their journey through the hospital because the inpatient beds are taken up,” he said.

“Radiology hasn’t been a major problem for us but the cancellation of operations and people not getting out into the community hospitals is slowing things down.”

While attendances dropped by 25% on Thursday as the public heeded the warnings to only attend in an emergency, Dr Deasy said the hospital had 43 patients admitted on corridors waiting for an inpatient bed and 17 patients waiting to be seen.

Doctors worked with the INMO strike committee on Tuesday to secure more staff. “An ED of our size is allocated six nurses during the strike days,” explained Dr Deasy.

“Usually we have 15 to 20 nurses per day in the ED so there’s a big difference. We have been relatively successful in getting more staff which is a help,” he added.

“We’ve had to increase our medical staff on strike dates to ensure we can meet demand, and do some nursing tasks.”

With three further days of strike action beginning tomorrow, Dr Deasy said he is concerned.

“From a risk point of view, I’m very concerned about the prospect of a three-day strike and the impact that will have on trying to get patients up into ward beds from the ED because everything will be stagnating and this will result in increased overcrowding in ED,” he explained.

“I’m obviously worried about the prospect of there being less emergency nurses available on the shop floor of the ED to help assess, treat and monitor patients with emergency problems.

“This creates significant risk for patients,” he added.

“I would be appealing to both sides to talk and to avoid strike action tomorrow in the interest of patient safety.”

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