Minister says no risk from fewer staff

Fri, Nov 30, 2012, 00:00

Minister for Health James Reilly has rejected a claim by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) that staff shortages are putting patients at serious risk.

INMO secretary general Liam Doran called on Dr Reilly to acknowledge that Ireland’s “unacceptably low” staffing levels caused patients to suffer. Speaking at the launch of an INMO-commissioned study, Mr Doran said staffing numbers were now “beyond crisis” levels.

The comparative study shows there are on average six fewer members of staff in Irish hospital wards than in British wards. According to the figures, there are 13.5 fewer members of staff in Irish admissions and assessment units than in the UK, and three fewer members of staff in Irish elderly care wards.

The INMO said the study did not compare Irish staffing with best practice, and British staffing had been shown to be inadequate.

Average salary

Responding to the claim, Dr Reilly said salaries in Britain were lower. The average salary of a UK nurse was €44,000 compared to €55,000 in Ireland. The ratio of nurses to healthcare assistants varied from nine to one in some hospitals to two to one in others.

Mr Doran said he wanted an immediate meeting with the Oireachtas health committee, and called on the Government to lift the health recruitment embargo.

He said international evidence linked a reduction in nurse staffing levels with higher patient mortality rates; increased adverse events such as patient falls; medication and transfusion errors; delays in treatment; and operative and post-operative complications.

Mr Dolan said there was a “mantra” in Ireland of giving out about HSE staffing costs. Some 55 per cent of the HSE’s costs go on staff pay, a figure “not out of the ordinary” comparatively.