'Over-stretched' nurses may walk out in January
Nurses are set to be the latest public sector workers to consider strike action, with a walkout possible in the new year.
As the industrial strife of teachers continues and after gardai contemplated striking before reverting at the 11th hour, hospitals are facing chaos if nurses take industrial action.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) yesterday embarked on a campaign to secure incentive packages to stem the flow of nurses abroad, which is leaving hospitals struggling with severe under-staffing.
The union also wants to speed up the restoration of cuts to pay and conditions that had been under the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
INMO President Martina Harkin-Kelly warned the lack of nurses is putting patients at risk and that staff are broken from excessive workloads.
She said it was accepted worldwide that patients are safest and death rates lowest "when there are sufficient nurses and midwives working in positive environments providing their care".
Nurses say over-stretched staff are reporting repeated episodes of missed care, not just in hospitals but also in centres for the elderly and disabled.
Up to 30 patients could be left under the sole care of third-year students in some services.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said balloting of the union's 40,000 members will begin on November 24, with a result on December 15.
They would give three weeks' notice of any action, which means it could begin in January, when hospitals are often overwhelmed by patients suffering winter-related conditions.
Action would begin with a work-to-rule, which would result in beds being closed in wards where there aren't enough nurses, followed by one-day work stoppages.