CORK University Hospital (CUH) has launched its Hospital Surge Plan and has warned non-urgent procedures may be cancelled due to rising levels of Covid and increased admissions.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has now called for an emergency meeting next week to discuss urgent measures they say must be taken "to keep patients and staff safe".
It has described the situation across acute hospitals in Cork as "very dangerous".
In a letter to the National Director of Acute Hospitals, the INMO noted a range of challenges that it says need urgent intervention including bed management and capacity, overcrowding in the emergency departments, and Intensive Care Unit demand that exceeds staffing levels.
A CUH statement tonight confirmed their Hospital Surge Plan was currently being implemented and said this may result in the cancellation of a number of non-urgent procedures.
The hospital said patients would be contacted directly in the event of their procedure being cancelled.
CUH hospital management also requested that members of the public avoid the Emergency Department (ED) unless absolutely necessary to attend.
CUH management said the ED at CUH had been "exceptionally busy" over the past number of weeks and there is an increased level of activity and subsequent admissions and "it is regrettable that some patients may experience a delay in the ED".
The hospital also said the "increasing number of Covid-19 positive patients admitted to the hospital" is also putting "significant pressure" on services.
The CUH statement said: "Patient care is paramount in CUH and this situation is being treated as a priority by Hospital Management who have taken steps to address this issue."
“Where appropriate, the public contact their GP/South Doc in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to attending the Emergency Department if their needs are not urgent," the statement added.
Calling for an urgent reduction of services at Cork University Hospital, INMO Industrial Relations Officer for CUH Liam Conway said: “This is a very dangerous situation across the acute hospitals in Cork, and staff can’t wait any longer for management to intervene. That’s why we’re now raising the matter to the national hospital office of the HSE, and insisting on meaningful action on safety."
Mr Conway said INMO members feel abandoned and something needed to be done to turn the tide of nurses and midwives leaving their roles.
“Our members in the hospital feel abandoned, and they’re wondering how they are going to get through this winter. It’s not sustainable and the fact is we will see dedicated staff who have worked through the pandemic, walking out of their jobs if this situation isn’t taken seriously. It’s absolutely crucial that the HSE works with us now to prevent that happening.”
Consultant in Emergency Medicine at CUH Conor Deasy described the situation as "very challenging".
"Our number of patients with Covid admitted in the hospital and intensive care unit is very high," he told.
"We have extra ICU beds open to cope with this Covid surge. The projections advise that this will get worse before it gets better. Staff numbers, medical, nursing and allied health are finite. Beds and ICU beds in particular are also finite. CUH works extremely hard to avoid cancelling patient’s medical care - much of the care provided at CUH is time-critical care. We will need support from the other hospitals in Cork, Public and Private, and the Community Hospitals to keep vital specialist services that are available only at CUH afloat during this surge.
Fine Gael TD Colm Burke said a blanket ban on elective surgeries should be avoided and patient care should be carefully deliberated in conjunction with consultants who have insight into the urgency of each individual case.
“There needs to be a careful plan put in place, worked out in collaboration with consultants, elective surgeries should not be cancelled across the board.”