Increase in verbal and physical abuse of hospital staff in mid-west


An increasing number of staff at Limerick's Mid-Western Regional Hospital are being subjected to verbal and physical abuse, according to the annual report for 2001 of the Mid-Western Health Board, which was published yesterday.

Verbal and physical abuse to members of staff is also on the increase at Nenagh General Hospital.

In response, Ms Helen Ruane of the Irish Nurses Organisation said yesterday that the attacks were "a source of significant concern".

Medical staff were to be shortly equipped with personal alarms. "To be fair to the health board," she added, "they are doing as much as they can to combat the problem."

The rise in physical abuse on staff at two of the regions major hospitals came during a year when the board increased its annual spend on its various services throughout the region by 25 per cent on 2000's budget to €464 million.

Despite the €95 million rise in expenditure, the report states that the health board's flagship facility, the 756-bed Regional Hospital in Limerick, experienced continuing inadequate bed capacity leading to occupancy levels continuously above 85 per cent.

The Regional Hospital's budget last year was €130 million, accounting for 76 per cent of expenditure of €170 million on acute hospitals in the mid-west region.

The health board did however manage to reduce significantly in-patient waiting lists at the hospital by 36.5 per cent.

This was done in part by contracting 150 eye-treatment procedures with a private agency which is expected to cost the health board €300,000.

The report states: "The greatest reductions were achieved for patients waiting over 12 months where a net reduction of 42 per cent was achieved.

"Significant reductions were also achieved in ENT [ear, nose and throat] waiting lists due to the opening of 13 beds, which accommodated additional waiting list patients."

In an effort to increase bed capacity at the hospital, the report states that "there must be an adjustment in public/private bed provision".

At the end of the year, the board recorded a small surplus of €4.32 million.

Yesterday's meeting was told that in April this year, it had an adverse balance of €142,000 over the month.

However, overall this year, a health board spokeswoman said that the health board was "breaking even".

Despite the major increase in the region's health budget last year, the board acknowledges that at Ennis General Hospital, core under-funding continues to present major difficulties as does the retention and recruitment of all grades of staff.

Underfunding at the hospital was one of the issues on which Independent TD James Breen successfully campaigned in the recent general election.

The report also highlights shortfalls in the service being provided at the 69-bed Nenagh General Hospital.