Nurses in Ireland are calling for the country to join forces with organisations over the border to help deal with overcrowding at a hospital in the north, which they claim is creating “impossible” and unsafe working conditions.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said Letterkenny University Hospital had been under increasing pressure in recent months as attendances had increased.
“This volume of overcrowding in Letterkenny University Hospital is not sustainable and cannot be allowed to continue”
It claimed that last week there had been 46 patients waiting for beds at the hospital who instead had to be cared for in ward corridors, treatment rooms or in escalation areas that were opened up.
In addition, the union said it had learnt that more than 14 patients in the hospital had been discharged to services that were unavailable at the time.
Some elective theatre procedures and day services had been cancelled, added the union, which claimed the situation had worsened over the past month.
It said it was “imperative” that additional bed capacity and home care packages were provided immediately and called for the country’s Health Services Executive to co-ordinate assistance from neighbouring health services, including in Northern Ireland, to help put a stop to the “crisis”.
INMO industrial relations officer Maura Hickey said: “This volume of overcrowding in Letterkenny University Hospital is not sustainable and cannot be allowed to continue.
“Nursing staff are gravely concerned for the safety of their patients and feel no one is listening to their concerns”
“Staff are increasingly struggling to deliver a high standard of care in an unsafe environment.s Sustained actions must be taken to increase capacity with additional appropriate staffing to deal properly and safely with every person who presents for care and attention,” she added.
“Nursing staff are gravely concerned for the safety of their patients and feel no one is listening to their concerns,” said Ms Hickey.
“This is such a crisis the INMO is also calling on HSE management to immediately engage with neighbouring health services, including in Northern Ireland, to see what additional capacity it can supply in the interests of patient care,” she said.
Last month INMO members voted in favour of industrial action, if required, to deal with nurse and midwife recruitment and retention issues across the country.
The union’s executive council claimed factors including record levels of overcrowding in emergency departments and inpatient wards, and a failure by employers to implement staffing agreements were to blame for the vote result.
A spokesman for Saolta University Health Care Group, which runs Letterkenny University Hospital, said it had a “close working relationship” with Altnagelvin Hospital in Northern Ireland, which already provides radiotherapy and primary percutaneous coronary intervention services to patients from Donegal.
“Together with the HSE national acute hospitals division, we are open to exploring any further opportunities for the provision of services by Altnagelvin to our patients,” he said.
But he warned: “From contacts with Altnagelvin we understand that it is experiencing its own crowding challenges. However, we are not in a position to comment on capacity issues in another jurisdiction.”