The Government’s plans to increase capacity in hospitals across the country will be hampered unless it deals with problems affecting the recruitment and retention of staff, nurses have warned .
The executive council of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is to meet in emergency session on Tuesday amid concerns at a delay in the publication of a planned report by the Public Service Pay Commission which examined recruitment and retention difficulties in the health service.
The union also maintained that even though it was almost September, the HSE was still refusing to say how many nurses would be hired this year.
It said publication of a funded workforce plan by the HSE in November 2017 formed part of an agreement on recruitment and retention that the union had secured.
The union also said an agreement reached in late 2015 regarding emergency departments in hospitals had not yet been implemented in full.
An INMO delegation raised concerns about pay, the funded workforce plan and staffing levels in emergency departments at a meeting with Minister for Health Simon Harris on Monday.
The delegation also met the new executive director of the Sláintecare health reform programme, Laura Magahy, to brief her on the union's views on the plan.
The executive council of the INMO is to consider the delay in the pay commission report as well as the issue of the HSE’s workforce plan and emergency department staffing levels at its meeting on Tuesday and will decide on what steps to take.
It is understood Mr Harris said at the meeting on Monday that he would talk to the union again when the Public Service Pay Commission report was published in the weeks ahead.
Sources reported he also said the issue of a workforce plan for nursing was being looked at as part of a process at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and that this should continue. He said that agreements should be honoured.
In a statement issued earlier this month, the INMO said publication of the funded workforce plan in November 2017 was part of an agreement secured by the INMO on recruitment and retention. The union said it had referred the issue as a dispute to the WRC to enforce the agreement, but there had been no progress after several meetings.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “Delay tactics like this pose high risks for patient care. We’re more than halfway through 2018, and the HSE still hasn’t confirmed how many new nurses and midwives they plan to hire this year. This is simply the opposite of best practice.”
The delays are “simply unacceptable”, according to the union’s president, Martina Harkin-Kelly.
“This continued breach of a national agreement by the HSE, combined with the delay in the Public Sector Pay Commission’s special report, will form part of an emergency INMO executive meeting on August 28th. It is simply unacceptable to go on like this.”