The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has announced that its members will begin industrial action early next month, in a bid to force ministers to act on their workforce concerns.
The INMO said that action would commence on Tuesday, 7 March, with nurses and midwives asked to engage in continuous work to rule, with a ban on overtime, cross cover and redeployment.
“All areas are understaffed and the services are at breaking point”
In addition, the union warned that it would commence a series of rolling stoppages if the dispute was not resolved.
The union was given a mandate last month when its members voted in favour of industrial action, if required, to deal with nurse and midwife recruitment and retention issues across the country.
INMO leaders claimed record levels of overcrowding in emergency departments and hospital wards, and a failure by employers to implement staffing agreements were to blame for the ballot result.
The subsequent move to take action follows the rejection of last ditch proposals put forward yesterday by the Irish Health Services Executive, which the union described as “totally inadequate”.
The compromising of the health and safety of patients, nurses and midwives must be recognised and addressed, said the INMO in a strongly worded statement, which warned about chronic overcrowding and understaffing in hospitals, residential care and community settings.
The two sides had met on Monday and Tuesday to try and find a solution to long-standing problems with nurse staffing levels, which have largely centred on recruitment red tape.
The union is understood to have rejected a proposal to hire an additional 1,200 nurses. The nursing workforce in Ireland has fallen by 32% since 2007, from 39,006 in 2007 to 35,835 in 2016.
Meanwhile, the government side is believed to have refused to guarantee that sufficient funding would be made available for all Irish-trained nurses and midwives graduating in 2016-17 to be guarantees permanent employment.
The union’s executive council members said they considered the proposals put forward as completely inadequate in terms of retaining staff and recognising the reality of the workplace endured by nurses and midwives.
In addition, proposals on recruitment were regarded as too little too late and not able to compete with those being offered in the private sector and in other countries, they said.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said: “The clear message received from INMO members is that their workplaces are now unsafe and dangerously overcrowded.
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“All areas are understaffed and the services are at breaking point which will require radical solutions to take the pressure off struggling nurses and midwives,” he said.
“We need to attract and retain nurses and midwives in sufficient numbers to provide safe care and the current proposals contain no adequate remedies for this,” he added.
Irish health minister Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe, the minister for public expenditure, said they were “deeply disappointed” with the INMO’s decision.