Almost 100 people gathered in a show of solidarity with nurses from St Patrick’s Hospital, Carrick-on-Shannon yesterday. The protest, held at lunchtime Tuesday outside the Community Hospital, was held to highlight unsustainable staffing levels.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), who organised the protest, said that local members voted almost unanimously in favour of industrial action as a result of staffing reductions at the Hospital and the Union has called for an immediate recruitment initiative for St Patrick’s.
The INMO have pointed to the failure of the HSE to recruit additional nursing staff; the HSE’s failure to recognise the risks to patients as identified by nurses; the hospital’s reliance on the provision of care by off-duty nurses; and the hospital’s reliance on an insufficient number of nurses to deliver appropriate nursing care to patients, as the driving force behind the industrial action.
The INMO and other unions say they have engaged with management to address concerns over the past year in order to develop workable solutions. Some staff have also changed their roster in an attempt to improve the situation but the INMO told the Leitrim Observer this week that “this did not address the staffing shortage”.
Maura Hickey, INMO Industrial Relations Officer, said: “The situation that currently exists within St. Patrick’s Hospital is unsafe and untenable. Our members are challenged, on a daily basis, to deliver safe and effective care to the patients in their charge. They are the frontline staff who go to work every day and, to the best of their ability, try to deliver good quality care and service to their clients. They come in on their days off, work late and work through their breaks, while striving to deliver maximum nursing care to those for whom they are responsible.
Ms Hickey continued: “The HSE is failing in its duty of care to both the patients and staff in the hospital, as it fails to acknowledge that there is a nurse staffing crisis. There are barely enough staff to ensure safe medication practices, feed and activate residents. The INMO is now calling for an immediate recruitment initiative specific to St. Patrick’s Hospital to address this crisis.”
Responding a spokesperson for the HSE said that there were 44 Nurses and 42 Health Care Assistants, serving the 85 bed Hospital.
“Similar to other Community Hospitals/Nursing Units within Sligo/Leitrim, St Patrick’s monitors its staffing level and skill mix on a day by day basis and replaces staff accordingly,” it was noted.
According to the HSE two Health Care Assistants (HCA’s) were employed at St Patrick’s in November last year, two more started in March this year and a further two HCA posts are yet to be filled. The National Recruitment Service are also processing the following posts: Staff Nurse, Clinical Nurse Manager and Assistant Director of Nursing at St Patrick’s.
Referring to the roster change implemented in the Hospital, the HSE spokesperson explained this was done to “enable resident care to be delivered within the available resources and have staff available to residents when they most require them.” The rosters are under review in consultation with the Unions, added the spokesperson.
“Nationally work is ongoing in relation to staffing/skill mix for residential services with the HSE and Unions. St Patrick’s Hospital awaits the outcome of this review.
“The hospital provides a very high quality of care for the residents, and has provided additional agency staff to assist the management of residents in situations where the quality and safety of the residents and staff could be compromised. In some instances this has been provided on a 24 hour basis. We continue to manage absence and monitor this closely,” said the HSE spokesperson.
The HSE said St Patrick’s Hospital is housed in a very old building and plans for a new Community Hospital “on an already identified site within Leitrim” have been put forward to the HSE National Capital office for approval and these plans are presently being considered.”