Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO) has warned that hospitals, that are already overcrowded, will not be able to cope this winter with the twin threats of Covid and flu.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha told Newstalk Breakfast that the INMO was seeking an early agreement with private hospitals to ensure that acute services were not overwhelmed and procedures subsequently cancelled.
The system could be better managed, she said. Private hospitals must be asked to be part of the overall health service this winter with a view to making sure that elective admissions were not cancelled.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said that the crisis was predictable given the already stretched nature of the health service and that the graduate brain drain from the HSE was exacerbating the problem.
There was a shortage of nurses overall which meant that newly qualified graduate nurses were key to staffing wards and keeping beds open.
However, many graduates were being enticed to the UK where there was also a shortage, but more attractive packages were being offered including accommodation and extra bonuses when they work in large urban areas.
This was particularly appealing considering the severity of Ireland’s housing crisis, she said.
“We believe that accommodation costs are so high now that it is going to be impossible for people who start on a low salary to have accommodation in and around hospitals where they’re desperately needed.
"Considering the housing crisis, that also obviously affects student nurses and new graduates and qualified staff.”