As health services around the country ready themselves for a strike by over 35,000 nurses and midwives this week, the HSE is reminding people not to attend Emergency Departments (EDs) unless absolutely essential.
The nurses, all members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), are set to go on strike for 24 hours on January 30, after 95% voted in favour of such action last month. If this dispute continues, there will be further 24-hour strikes on February 5, 7, 12, 13 and 14.
During these times, nurses and midwives will withdraw their labour, providing only lifesaving care and emergency response teams. The dispute centres on poor pay and staff shortages.
The strike will begin at 8am on Wednesday, January 30, and run until 8am on Thursday, January 31. It will affect all public hospitals and community healthcare services.
Talks to try to avert the strike between the INMO, the HSE and the Department of Health collapsed at the Workplace Relations Commission on Friday without resolution.
According to the INMO, the Government ‘produced no proposals over the course of three days of talks to deal with the recruitment and retention crisis in Irish nursing and midwifery'.
"Ireland's nurses and midwives are asking simple questions. Where is the Taoiseach? Where is the Minister for Finance? There is a vacuum of political leadership. The largest strike in the health service's history looms and our political leaders are nowhere to be seen," commented INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
The HSE said that while EDs will be open during the strike period, people should not go there unless absolutely necessary.
In hospitals, all inpatient and day surgeries, other than cancer surgeries, will be cancelled over the 24-hour period, while all outpatient appointments will also be cancelled.
Services that will operate on the day of the strike include maternity services, dialysis services and oncology services. Inpatient wards will also operate as normal.
In the community, services that will not operate will include public day centres where nurses are employed, which cater for people with disabilities or older people. Routine community nursing services and health centre clinics involving nurses will also not operate.
However, some services in the community will operate, including palliative care.
This marks only the second time that INMO members have gone on strike in the organisation's 100-year history. The last strike was in 1999.