Reilly taskforce to examine nurse staffing levels

INMO wants a ratio of one midwife for every 29.5 births in maternity units

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation  has begun a lobbying campaign for better staffing ratios in nursing.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has begun a lobbying campaign for better staffing ratios in nursing.

Sat, May 10, 2014, 01:00

Minister for Health James Reilly has responded to concerns among nurses about staffing levels by setting up a taskforce to examine the issue.

The announcement was made yesterday at the annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which has begun a lobbying campaign for better staffing ratios in nursing. It follows a series of hospital controversies in which understaffing appears to have played a role.

The union wants a ratio of one nurse to four patients in busy wards and one midwife for every 29.5 births in maternity units. This would require the recruitment of at least 8,000 extra nurses.

However, Dr Reilly has signalled that the taskforce is likely to recommend ranges of acceptable staffing levels, as opposed to strict ratios. He also warned nursing cannot be immune to measures necessary to contain costs by reducing staff numbers in the health service.

His announcement was made at the conference by Department of Health secretary general Ambrose McLoughlin.

Eight Filipino nurses are to return home for four weeks on full pay so they can assist in relief work following the disastrous typhoon that struck the Philippines six months ago, Dr Reilly announced.

A motion from the INMO executive council expressing support for universal health insurance was defeated after speakers said it would be interpreted as being in support of Dr Reilly’s policies.


‘Arbitrary’
Delegates condemned the “arbitrary” withdrawal of medical cards from patients with chronic health needs.

Mary Leahy, a public health nurse in Waterford, described a visit she paid to a woman who had given birth prematurely. The woman had extreme pre-eclampsia, “blood pressure up to the roof” and was very upset.

She had been billed for €850 because the baby had exceeded its time in the special care unit. The cost was covered for the first six weeks but the baby remained in care for an additional 10 days.“The baby was penalised for being born early,” she told the conference.

Delegates passed a motion urging a more proactive approach on bullying in the workplace. Mary Love, Bantry, blamed the problem on the “hierarchical” style of management.

Other speakers referred to bullying by hospital visitors, including relatives who take videos of staff or post messages about them on Facebook.

Senior health managers were aware of the problems at Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise before the recent controversy over the deaths of a number of newborns, delegates were told.

Joe Hoolan, a clinical nurse manager at the hospital, said Portlaoise was visited by all the clinical care groups over the years. “The problems were all well known in that hospital.”