Nurses and midwives across the country have taken to the picket lines outside hospitals and HSE facilities since 8am this morning, as they demand pay increases and Government action on staff shortages.

37,000 INMO members are involved in the industrial action, with 5 further strike days planned during February.

All elective surgery and outpatient appointments are cancelled today, with local injury units and day care centres remaining closed.

The HSE is appealing to people not to attend hospital Emergency Departments unless absolutely necessary.

Nurses and  midwives have gathered in cold conditions this morning to demand  pay increases of around 12 per cent and for the HSE to sort out what they call a recruitment and retention crisis in nursing.

However, the government says wage hikes for nurses would open the floodgates for other unions to seek pay claims, which the State cannot afford.

In this region, pickets have been placed on hospitals in Mayo, Galway, Roscommon and Sligo and on a number of primary care centres and health centres run by the HSE.

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