The Health Service Executive has warned that disruption in mental health services due to industrial action by psychiatric nurses is expected to significantly worsen from this evening.
Last Thursday and Friday, as well as yesterday, the Psychiatric Nurses Association implemented a daytime overtime ban in its dispute over pay and staff shortages.
This led to staffing difficulties in a number of areas, with some night shift workers unable to leave work as there were not enough day staff to hand over to.
However, tonight and tomorrow night the overtime ban will run through the night causing serious difficulties in some residential units.
The HSE confirmed that today - without a 24-hour overtime ban - there had been "significant challenges" in ensuring service for patients in several locations in Dublin, Galway and Cork.
However, it stated that this position was likely to worsen considerably at the change of shift in residential units this evening.
The HSE said it was continuing to negotiate with the PNA about derogations from next week's industrial action, when 6,000 psychiatric nurses are expected to hold a three-day back-to-back strike in tandem with the 37,000 members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
Disruption to mental health services during PNA industrial action
The PNA has said its overtime ban was having a "very significant effect" on mental health services and that the impact today is worse than last week and will escalate tonight.
PNA General Secretary Peter Hughes said a number of staff had to remain on duty for several hours after their shift ended because there were not enough staff available to relieve them.
The PNA conducted a daytime overtime ban last Thursday and Friday and on Tuesday of this week.
He said that situation would escalate when that overtime ban extends to night shifts for the first time from tonight.
He said that the issue of staff being unable to leave after a shift occurred at facilities in Ballinsasloe, Portlaoise, Mullingar, St Josephs in Portrane and the Phoenix Centre in north Dublin.
In the latter two facilities, nurses who were suppose to finish night duty at 8pm last night were still on duty this afternoon, more than eight hours after their shift was due to end.
Mr Hughes said it shows that the HSE’s reliance on overtime and agency staff is unsustainable and highlights the recruitment and retention issue in the mental health services.
When asked about the impact on both patient and staff safety, he said it was the HSE’s responsibility to ensure there was sufficient staff.
Mr Hughes also said they had no contact from the Government last week but that talking with addressing pay issues was "not a runner".
He said PNA members were resolute and very determined to follow this action through.
Additional reporting: Samantha Libreri