Intensive care nurses begin industrial dispute at Limerick hospital

Mary Fogarty, INMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations

NURSES in the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) will begin industrial action in the form of work-to-rule this morning.

Describing the action as “an unprecedented step”, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Assistant Director of Industrial Relations Mary Fogarty said it arose because nurses were constantly expected to deliver nursing care in an unsafe  environment.

“Staffing in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is currently operating at a 22 per cent deficit, which represents nearly a quarter of the required nurses are not available on the roster, yet 100 per cent of the ICU beds remain open to admissions,” Ms Fogarty explained.

“Shifts in the ICU are significantly depleted and this is predicted to continue. Our members are very concerned about the potential deviation away from one nurse to one patient care in the ICU.

“The lack of consistent safe staffing in the intensive care unit is having a detrimental impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of our members working in this unit and their patients.

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“Since the ballot of Intensive Care nurses in UHL concluded, the INMO has engaged extensively with hospital management both at local level and through the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

“In order to make staffing safe and ensure that patients are getting the one-to-one care that is expected in an ICU, the INMO is calling on hospital management to temporarily close two beds in the ICU pending the recruitment of suitably qualified and experienced ICU nurses.

“Unlike other hospitals experiencing similar nursing deficits, management in Limerick have been unwilling to do this thus far,” Ms Fogarty claimed.

“Our members in the ICU at UHL have been working at full tilt since the beginning of the pandemic with very little reprieve. It is unacceptable that they are constantly expected to deliver nursing care in an unsafe environment.

“The decision to begin a work-to-rule is not one that our members have come to lightly but they feel that all other avenues to resolve the issues that exist have been closed off by hospital management,” she concluded.