All elective surgeries at two of the south's busiest hospitals have been cancelled due to overcrowding in Emergency Departments (EDs), it has been announced.
The decision to cancel all elective surgery at Cork University Hospital and Mercy University Hospital was taken following a meeting between the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the South/South West Hospital Group (SSWHG).
According to the INMO, the "lengthy" meeting took place due to concerns about current capacity issues, which have been "exacerbated due to the high number of ED attendances and flu admission in Cork hospitals".
The meeting was adjourned until January 8 to allow consideration of the issues raised by the INMO, however in the meantime, additional measures were agreed with the SSWHG and put in place in an attempt to improve bed capacity.
"Such measure include the cancellation of elective surgery, stopping non-emergency admissions and sourcing extra bed capacity from the public and private sectors," a joint statement from the INMO and HSE said.
Prior to the meeting, nurses working in Cork University Hospital and Mercy University Hospital said that the conditions for patients and staff were the worst they had ever seen.
The INMO/HSE statement added that in the context of the current pressures facing the SSWHG, "all nursing posts that are sanctioned can be recruited and are proceeding".
In an attempt to stop the spread of flu, visitor restrictions have been introduced at a number of hospitals nationwide including Cork University Hospital and Dublin's Mater Hospital, while Mercy University Hospital has been closed to all visitors since 8.30pm on January 3.
Mercy University Hospital said that these restrictions will remain in place "until further notice", although exceptions will be made in "exceptional cases".
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