Nurses pursue talks with HSE over staffing levels
INMO says highest level of overcrowding for month of July recorded since records began
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said the HSE is “sleepwalking into yet another winter crisis”. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
Nurses are seeking talks with health authorities to curtail services in hospitals in the months ahead to match the level of staffing available.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said on Tuesday that the Health Service Executive is “sleepwalking into yet another winter crisis”.
It said the levels of overcrowding experienced in hospitals in July was the largest for that particular month since records began. It said during July there were 7,069 admitted patients on trolleys in emergency departments and on hospital wards across the country, an increase of 11 per cent on the figure for the same month last year.
The union said figures provided by the HSE at the Workplace Relations Commission showed that emergency departments in hospitals across the country were at least 216 nurses short of the number required to provide care for the all patients admitted.
“There are 159 unfilled vacancies, while the HSE estimate that an additional 57 nurses are required within emergency departments to care for admitted patients for whom there are no available beds,” said the INMO.
The INMO said that at a meeting with the HSE at the Workplace Relations Commission on Tuesday it had demanded “immediate talks on curtailment of services to ensure safety of nurses and midwives when at work”.
It said low pay and bad working conditions made it near impossible to recruit and retain sufficient nurses in emergency departments.
It argued that across all services, the nursing census showed 2,500 fewer employed nurses and midwives than in 2007. And that vacancies are growing.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said overcrowding was now
“a constant feature of our hospital system, even in summer”.
“Low salaries for nurses and midwives mean that vacancies simply aren’t being taken up and health service capacity can’t grow. Without realistic pay correction for nurses and midwives, this problem won’t be fixed.
“The HSE still haven’t set out their funding workforce plan, which sets how many nurses and midwives they will recruit this year. The hazardous working conditions for staff look set to worsen.
“The HSE is sleepwalking into yet another winter crisis. We have today sought discussions on which services will be curtailed this winter, so that nursing staff can work in safe environments. It is very unlikely that services will develop to alleviate overcrowding this year. Plans must now be put in place to ensure a safe working environment.”