NURSES working at Cork University Hospital’s Coronary Care Unit are being balloted for industrial action this week over concerns about patient safety at the unit.
The eight-bed unit provides care for acutely ill cardiac patients, treating patients who have experienced heart attacks or heart failure.
The nurses have taken the “very difficult decision” to ballot for industrial action as they feel they are unable to provide safe patient care due to the current staffing levels, said Colm Porter, spokesperson for the Cork branch of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
The ballot is ongoing this week, and a decision is expected next week. “The issue at the minute is that you need 24.5 whole-time equivalents to provide safe care in the unit,” said Mr Porter. “That is currently down to 17.4 whole-time equivalents.”
A whole-time equivalent is a metric used to calculate how many hours all workers, including full and part-time, have worked.
The nurses’ main concerns centre on patient health and safety. Care is currently dependent on the goodwill of staff who are going above and beyond the call of duty, said Mr Porter.
“They are working extra hours or doing overtime, leading to burnout,” he said.
“The reality is that many of the nurses working there are considering leaving now because of the impact it’s having on their own health, safety, and wellbeing. It is an issue of patient care. The nurses working in that unit, on a day-to-day basis, currently don’t have the right levels of staffing to provide safe patient care.”
“The nurses are hoping that the public will understand that any action is being taken in the interests of the patients. They felt that they have been raising the issue for so long, but unfortunately, they have had to take the decision to ballot for industrial action. It’s something that they don’t want to be in a decision to do,” said Mr Porter.
“The nurses want to do what they do best: providing top-class patient care to acutely unwell patients. But they’re being prevented from doing that because of the current staff levels.
“The departure of staff from Cork’s hospitals due to stress and conditions, also leads to an impact on overcrowding and patient care, with systems under severe strain on a daily basis,” concluded Mr Porter. If passed, the industrial action would consist of a work-to-rule.