Galway Public Health Nursing is facing emergency shutdowns this week due to staffing difficulties, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO) said.
The nurses’ union said the HSE was refusing to fill positions that became vacant.
INMO said nursing wards in Ballinasloe and Portumna typically had six nurses.
However, he said the service was facing four vacancies due to maternity leave, resignations and reassignments.
He said the HSE was refusing to fill these positions. HSE’s Community Healthcare West said on Monday it was aware of the shortage of nursing coverage in the Ballinasloe and Portumna regions.
âWe are currently working on a plan that will provide an increased level of nursing coverage,â he said.
The union said local public health nurses along with their managers and INMO have informed the HSE that the service will be forced to close on Friday, November 15, unless vacancies are filled.
Public health nurses provide care in the community, in patients’ homes, in schools and health centers.
INMO said public health nurses are generally trained as both nurses and midwives. He said the alternative to public health nursing is often hospital admission.
The union said in a formal warning to management, staff and local management drew up a list of patients the service would no longer be able to accept. He said these included:
* oncology / chemotherapy patients
* acute hospital discharges
* new mothers, including postnatal care
* references in child protection / health
INMO said many patients in need of wound care, palliative care and people with disabilities now need to be referred to general practitioners and hospitals.
INMO’s industrial relations manager in Galway, Anne Burke, said: âNo health service can function with only one third of the regular staff. Local management and frontline staff did their best to keep the show on the road, but it has clearly reached a tipping point.
âServices are shutting down unnecessarily due to bureaucratic blindness. Senior managers from the HSE and the regional community health organization must replace these staff urgently to prevent patients from suffering.
âOur hospitals are unable to take care of these additional patients. This morning there are already 30 patients lined up in the bedless hallways of Galway University Hospital. Patients will not simply leave: they will be taken to already overcrowded hospitals and general medicine departments. “
INMO Secretary General Phil NÃ Sheaghdha said the situation in Galway was “an extreme symptom” of what was happening across the country.
âThe HSE’s refusal to fill vital front-line positions weakens services. The cuts have consequences and exceptionally vulnerable patients are being forced to pay the price in Galway.
“This is yet another example of the detrimental role of the HSE hiring freeze.”
Separately, nurses said there were 593 patients, considered to require hospital admission, waiting on carts in emergency departments or in wards for a bed on Monday.
He said the center most affected by overcrowding was Limerick University Hospital, where 65 patients were waiting for a bed.