herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Hospital chaos as nurses at St Vincent's vote overwhelmingly for industrial action

St Vincent's Hospital
St Vincent's Hospital

NURSES at the Emergency Department of St Vincent’s Hospital have voted for industrial action due to massive overcrowding. Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) will begin with a lunchtime protest on Monday, followed by a work-to-rule on Tuesday.

The work-to-rule will see nurses withdrawing from any clerical work, non-nursing duties or use of information technology and phones, except the two emergency ambulance phones in the ED.

The INMO said that more than 100 patients are regularly being accommodated in the Emergency Department which has the capacity to accommodate only 18 patients on trolleys.

It has been “very difficult to provide safe care” for patients and it is an “intolerable working environment” for members, the INMO said.

According to the INMO’s trolley watch statistics, 3,750 patients spent time on a trolley in the ED from January to September this year. 

INMO industrial relations officer, Philip McAnenly, said that this was an increase of 134pc on the same period in 2014.

“Our members are totally frustrated at management’s failure to address this problem or even acknowledge the extent of the crisis caused by this overcrowding,” he said.

“Patient care and safety is being compromised on a daily basis, because of this intolerable overcrowding which totally prevents our members from providing the care they believe is necessary for patients.

“INMO members believe they have now no option but to highlight the unacceptable conditions patients are being subjected to,” he added.

“The decision to commence industrial action, up to and including withdrawal of labour, seeking immediate improvements, to protect both patients and themselves, has been unanimous.”

Mr McAnenly said that both staff and patients have been affected by the drastic overcrowding at the Emergency Department.

“Patients are being managed on corridors and in inappropriate spaces, with consequent risk to their safety and health,” he said.

A spokesperson for St Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH) said it deeply regrets the decision of nurses in the Emergency Department and said management will be putting contingency plans in place to minimise any disruption that will arise.

“The hospital management has acknowledged the immense pressure being encountered by the Emergency Department (ED) at the hospital, arising from increased attendances due to a number of factors, including a 28pc increase in ED attendances since 2013,” the representative said.

Alleviate

“Management at the hospital has been undertaking a range of measures in recent months to alleviate the pressures within the ED, including recruitment of additional nursing staff, changes in bed management in relation to patient flow, increasing the number of ward beds to facilitate the transfer of patients from the ED as early as possible and sourcing additional community beds for the discharge of patients that have completed their acute treatment.

“However, it should also be noted that the hospital capacity challenges facing St Vincent’s are bigger than this hospital, and reflects both a shortage of beds across the wider hospital system,” he added.

The HSE and the Department of Health did not respond to the Herald at the time of going to print.

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