Nurses protested outside Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown today over staff shortages which they say are resulting in unsafe working conditions and patient care being compromised.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation is calling for services at the hospital to be restricted and patients to be diverted to private hospitals.

INMO President Karen McGowan said its members are doing their best but "they can't sustain the service with the level of staffing they have".

The INMO said it has engaged with hospital management to find a resolution, but it is not satisfied with the response so far.

"It's very stressful because we know coming onto the ward we're already short," said staff nurse Brenda Lee O'Neill.

"For us to be short one to two nurses every single day is very hard. Days are stressed already going in, we're surgical ward, it's very busy at the best of times."

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Sinéad Lennon said: "I'm the manager of the ward so then you feel the responsibly to try and alleviate that.

"I simply can't, because the staff aren't there. You do your best but your hands are tied."

INMO President Karen McGowan said this is not just a problem in Connolly Hospital, it is a national issue being experienced in hospitals across the country.

"This is happening nationally in each and every hospital. Every emergency department in every hospital is experiencing staff shortages, and it is getting worse," she said.

"People are leaving, people are sick, people have long Covid.

"The moral distress that everyone has witnessed over the past year-and-a-half is really taking its toll and I think that really is only becoming evident now."

Ms McGown added: "Our members are exhausted, we have a broken workforce."

In a statement today, the RCSI hospital group said: "All efforts are being maximised to attract staff to Connolly Hospital through online advertising, international recruitment, and process improvement."

The group said its recruitment campaign has resulted in a number of new weekly nurse starters in recent months and a pipeline of nursing staff recruitment in progress.

It said: "As of last Friday, 8 October 2021, permanent nursing vacancies in Connolly are at 57.8 WTE. Of these vacancies 46 WTE are in recruitment clearance or have start dates finalised with commencement in the next 4-8 weeks."

Maurice Sheehan, INMO Industrial Relations Officer, said staff numbers at Connolly Hospital are down by the equivalent of 70 full-time staff for a variety of reasons.

He told RTÉ's Drivetime that these staff members are out because of maternity leave, high risk pregnancies, Long Covid leave, long-term sickness leave or work-related stress.

"Hospital management need to act urgently to keep staff and patients safe. Otherwise, services at the hospital will need to be scaled back to ensure safety for all," Mr Sheehan said.

He said their members had been through a very challenging time and were heading into winter with an increased workload and Covid still circulating.

The union said that although a recent recruitment initiative has had some success, many of these new recruits will not start until 2022.