Reilly rejects INMO staffing claim
Minister for Health James Reilly has rejected a claim by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation that staff shortages are putting patients at serious risk.
Dr Reilly told the Oireachtas health committee this morning things had improved in the health services and although recent cuts had consequences there were “other perspectives” from which the issue could be viewed.
INMO secretary general Liam Doran called on Dr Reilly to acknowledge that Ireland’s “unacceptably low” staffing levels cause 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 on average there are 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 that in the UK, and three fewer members of staff in Irish elderly care wards.
Responding to the claim Dr Reilly pointed out that salaries in Britain are lower. The average salary of a nurse in the UK is €44,000, compared to €55,000 in Ireland.
He also pointed out that the ratio of nurses to healthcare assistants varies from 9:1 in some hospitals to 2:1 in others.
Mr Doran said he wanted an immediate meeting with the Oireachtas Health Committee and called on the Government to lift the recruitment embargo on health staff.
He said international evidence links 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.
The INMO accused the Government of ignoring the staffing situation by concentrating too heavily on cost containment. “In pursuing this cutback agenda there is a continued refusal to examine, through independent assessment, the increasing risks directly arising from this reduction in frontline staff.”
Mr Dolan said there was a “mantra” in Ireland of people giving out about staffing costs in the HSE. He said 55 per cent of the HSE’s costs go on staff pay, a figure he described as comparatively “not out of the ordinary”. He added: “The health sector needs protection, staff on the frontline need protection”.