A last-ditch meeting is aiming to prevent around 9,000 nurses from taking the UK’s first 12-hour strike action over pay on Wednesday.
The unprecedented walkout in the north of Ireland will see them leave wards with the solidarity of thousands of other healthcare workers.
Stormont’s political parties are expected to meet the head of the civil service at Stormont in an appeal for more cash.
Unison union regional secretary Patricia McKeown said: “As we enter this significant period in the industrial struggle the consequences lay firmly on the shoulders of the UK government, our elected politicians and the leadership of the civil service.
“The decision they take in the next few hours will have lasting consequences in our society either for good or for ill.”
Routine medical appointments will be cancelled, minor injury units closed and there will be delays to some ambulance responses if the action goes ahead.
Nurses in the north of Ireland are paid up to £4,677 less than counterparts in England and Wales.
Around half are considering leaving the profession because of pressure caused by under-staffing, a union said.
The health authorities are unable to break the deadlock since no ministers are in place to take decisions at the devolved parliament at Stormont.
Civil servants running public services cannot find enough extra cash to satisfy the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union; while just under 2,800 posts are unfilled.
Spending on temporary agency staff to fill gaps has doubled.
A newly-qualified registered nurse in the north of Ireland earns £1,875 less than in Scotland and £1,419 less than in England and Wales. For a specialist nurse, the difference is up to £4,677, the RCN said.
Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith has said finding a solution will be among his top priorities during talks he has called with the local political parties.
Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists, Northern Ireland’s two largest parties, suffered some reverses in last week’s general election.
They face another assembly election if they do not agree by next month to return to powersharing and retake the tiller over increasingly-stretched public services.
Nearly 300,000 people in the north of Ireland were on a waiting list for a first appointment with a consultant, according to Department of Health figures published last summer.
Industrial action is also planned on Wednesday by the Unison, Unite and Nipsa trade unions which cover ambulance paramedics and jobs like cleaning, portering, catering and administration.
Services like cancer care will be exempted.
The South Tyrone Hospital Minor Injury Unit (MIU), Mid Ulster MIU, Bangor MIU and Ards MIU will all be closed.
All emergency departments will remain open as normal.
All patients and service users affected by cancellations of appointments and service closures have been notified by their local health trust, which runs services, and appointments will be rescheduled.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service will be prioritising 999 calls and those calls which are less serious in nature, potentially, face a delay in response times.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?