Politicians ‘fixated’ on health costs, says nursing union head

INMO conference to hear calls for end to recruitment embargo in health service

INMO General Secretary  Liam Doran with President Claire Mahon at the press conference before the INMO Conference in the Newpark Hotel Kilkenny today. Photograph: Pat Moore

INMO General Secretary Liam Doran with President Claire Mahon at the press conference before the INMO Conference in the Newpark Hotel Kilkenny today. Photograph: Pat Moore

Wed, May 7, 2014, 15:33

Politicians from all parties have become “fixated” on health costs when Ireland spends far less than other countries on its health service, according to the general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

Liam Doran said politicians needed to challenge the consensus that “there are no votes in health” and that it is a wasteful area of expenditure where repeated cuts can be made. Ireland spends less than 9 per cent of gross domestic product on health, compared to over 11 per cent in the Netherlands and Germany, he pointed out.

Speaking today before the opening of the INMO conference in Kilkenny, Mr Doran called on the Government to end the moratorium on recruitment within the health service. Over 5,000 nursing and midwifery posts have been lost since 2009, and 850 alone last year as a result of the recruitment embargo, he said, and this was negatively impacting on services.

“Care is being compromised and it has gone beyond the point where you can muddle through. Nurses are saying their ability to deliver care plans is reduced, and the result will be an increase in readmission and cross-infection rates. The problem is that no-one’s listening.”

Staffing issues are expected to dominate the conference, which is being attended by over 360 delegates from across the State. However, the meeting is also likely to hear demands for the restoration of pay cuts and changes to working hours introduced in recent years. “That will happen at the end of the Haddington Road Agreement, when the INMO and other unions will be looking at the restoration of entitlement lost during austerity,” Mr Doran said.

There was a complete lack of recognition of the need to fund the health service adequately, he said. “We tolerate people on trolleys and we tolerate overcrowded wards because we have become anaesthetised and the abnormal has become the normal.”

“We have now reached the point where we’re cutting bone, but in the absence of a change of policy at Government level we are going to continue cutting bone.”

He pointed out that over 22,300 patients were on trolleys in hospital emergency departments from January to April this year. Over 2,000 beds in hospitals around the country remain closed.