Call for mandatory nurse-patient ratios

Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 00:00

Mandatory nurse-patient ratios need to be introduced to guarantee patient safety in the health service, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Staffing levels are at a “critical and unsafe level” in Irish hospitals as a result of repeated cutbacks, INMO general secretary Liam Doran told the Oireachtas health committee this morning.

Mr Doran referred to British studies which showed a high level of avoidable deaths in hospitals in some areas as a result of under-staffing of nurses, and suggested the same situation could be happened in the Irish health service.

He said a study commissioned by the organisation showed the health service was relatively under-provided with nurses, in contrast to what the Department of Health claimed. This was compromising patients care and the ability of nurses to assure safe practice.

The repeated and daily documented concerns of nurses about care standards were being ignored by health managers because of their focus on targets, he claimed.

Staff numbers had been reduced by 11 per cent through the “uncontrolled” departure of 4,300 staff in recent year, according to Mr Doran.

The union is currently campaigning against the Government’s plans to recruit 1,000 extra nurses on 80 per cent of normal starting salary for a two-year period.

Graduate nurses should be glad to get the “fantastic opportunity” for positions in the graduate scheme, Fine Gael TD for Louth Peter Fitzpatrick told the committee.

“I don’t want to see any graduate nurses going to the UK or Australia when they have the opportunity to get experience in their own country,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Mr Doran said he disagreed with Mr Fitzpatrick’s point.

The employment of nurses through the graduate programme was redirecting monies from agency employment, Mr Doran said. A skills mix was needed among nurses and this move displaced “experienced staff to replace them with new graduates”, Mr Doran said.

“You can’t just rid yourself of experienced nurses and replace them with graduates and say nothing has been lost,” he told the committee.