Cork nurses and midwives were left with no choice but to strike after being ignored by the government and the HSE in their pursuit of fair pay and better working conditions.
That is according to nurses and midwives who were striking this morning outside the Mercy University Hospital.
Nurses and midwives were out in force from 8am this morning at Cork hospitals.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) called the 24-hour strike after 95% of its members voted for industrial action in December.
It is only the second time in the union's history that it has gone on strike.
“We were left with absolutely no choice, they forced this upon us,” said Margaret Frahill, a nurse manager at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH).
“We gave them weeks to prevent this.
“The government and HSE knew that we had voted overwhelmingly for industrial action before Christmas and it’s now January 30,” she added.
“The labour court involvement in the past few days came far too late.”
Aisling Fahy, medical-surgical nurse in the Mercy said: "We're highlighting the crisis that our government have placed us in. Short staffing levels are contributing to greater problems, dangerous and inadequate patient care and huge challenges to nurses and midwives on a daily basis."
The strike action has led to the cancellation and closure of a number of services across hospitals and community healthcare today, with the HSE and South/South West Hospital Group warning of widespread disruption to patient services.
Local injury units are closed, inpatient and day case surgeries are cancelled as well as outpatient appointments.
While emergency departments remain open, the public has been urged to only attend if absolutely essential.
The INMO, meanwhile, has warned of further strikes unless their issues are resolved.
As it stands, nurses and midwives are currently earning around 12% less than many of their counterparts in the hospital setting.
They are currently seeking restoration in pay up to the 12%.
“We have already strike plans in place for next Tuesday and Thursday and another three days the following week so that’s six days in total,” said Ms Frahill.
“The government know about this, we’ve given them plenty of notice.
“To date, they haven’t come back with substantial engagement for our members and unless they do, more strike action is sure to follow,” she added.