Varadkar says extra staff alone will not solve trolley crisis

INMO expected to announce limited industrial action across a number of hospitals

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has warned nurses that employing extra staff alone will not solve the trolley crisis in hospitals. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has warned nurses that employing extra staff alone will not solve the trolley crisis in hospitals. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Employing extra staff alone will not solve the trolley crisis in hospitals, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has warned nurses.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation is on Thursday expected to announce some form of limited industrial action across a number of hospitals in response to severe and persistent overcrowding in emergency departments.

The union signalled the possibility of industrial action earlier this week over the high number of people on trolleys at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, University Hospital Limerick and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

Mr Varadkar, while acknowledging the difficulties faced by some hospitals, pointed out that over 2,000 extra frontline staff are working in the health service compared to a year ago. This includes 869 more nurses and almost 600 doctors and dentists.

The hospitals under the most pressure have had a significant increase in total staffing this year, he told The Irish Times. This includes Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda, which has taken on 157 extra staff and University Hospital Limerick, with 140 more staff.

“So it’s clear that increased staffing levels on their own do not get patients off trolleys. However, I am confident that management will engage with nursing unions through the normal channels to come to an agreement.”

Mr Varadkar acknowledged difficulties in recruiting doctors and nurses, particularly in the most overcrowded hospitals.

“But we are also having a lot of success. We recruited more new consultants up to the end of July this year than in all of last year.”

“I am confident that the tide is turning when it comes to recruitment with pay restoration and proposed tax reductions starting in January, incentives being offered to people to return from overseas and extra training and education opportunities being made available.”

Plans were being made to provide extra hospital capacity ahead of the winter and the emergency department taskforce would meet shortly, he said. But it was clear staffing and beds and resources were not the only solution to reducing overcrowding: “Doing so requires sustained good management and planning, and greater clinical leadership”.