Nurses work to rule at Irish hospital over overcrowding in emergency department

100 patients regularly accommodated in department designed for 18 trolleys, says nursing organisation

About 100 nurses at a hospital in Ireland have started an indefinite period of working to rule in protest at overcrowding in the emergency department and staffing shortages.

Staff at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin are refusing to do clerical work and any non-nursing duties, including answering the phones except in an emergency.

This follows a ballot on industrial action last week and a one-hour protest outside the hospital on Monday.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which is overseeing the action, argues that around 100 patients are regularly being accommodated in the emergency department, even though there is only space for 18 trolleys. 

INMO industrial relations officer Philip McAnenly said: ‘Patient care and safety is being compromised on a daily basis because of this intolerable overcrowding, which prevents our members from providing the care they believe is necessary.’

'Capacity challenges'

A hospital spokesperson said: ‘We deeply regret the decision of nurses to take industrial action. Capacity challenges are bigger than just this hospital, and reflect both a shortage of beds across the wider hospital system and a need for greater investment in step-down care in the community for patients no longer requiring acute care in a hospital setting.’

The hospital has attempted to alleviate pressure through recruiting extra nurses, improving bed management and sourcing additional rehab and community bed so patients can be discharged quicker, added the spokesperson.

An INMO snapshot survey showed that 469 patients were waiting on trolleys in emergency departments across Ireland yesterday.

Some nurses at University Hospital Galway’s mental health inpatient unit temporarily refused to continue working on Friday last week because of concerns over staffing levels.


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