Nurse managers at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) will seek a halt to elective surgery next week, against a backdrop of almost 100 nursing vacancies.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said despite the high level of unfilled posts, less than half the nurses and midwives due to graduate shortly from the University of Limerick have been offered contracts.
Up to last Thursday, no contracts had been offered to the 83 nurses and midwives graduating, as reported in the Irish Examiner. Of the 83, just 55 nurses had interviewed for jobs at UHL and 28 at University Maternity Hospital Limerick.
Mary Fogarty, INMO spokesperson in the Midwest, said as of yesterday just 24 nurse graduates and 16 midwives had been offered contracts.
“That number won’t go far when you consider the level of vacancies,” Ms Fogarty said.
She said 16 nurses were due to leave the hospital in the next couple of weeks as last year’s graduates spread their wings. In addition, the hospital has been under daily pressure from high trolley figures, with Health Minister Simon Harris paying a surprise visit last Wednesday to see for himself the level of overcrowding.
UHL consistently tops the trolley count nationally. Ms Fogarty said nurse management at the hospital was in agreement with the union that the situation is now critical.
Ms Fogarty said the hospital had suffered from historic understaffing and that when patients are moved out of an overcrowded emergency department (ED) onto wards, no additional resources in the form of extra nurses are provided on those wards.
The hospital has confirmed that there are currently 61.92 whole time equivalent (WTE) vacancies and 32.56 WTE temporary vacancies in nursing and midwifery grades across the UL Hospital Group.
A spokesperson confirmed the group has offered posts to “24.6 WTE graduate nurses and 16.0 WTE graduate midwives”.
The spokesperson said the group, along with other hospital groups and community health organisations, is authorised to retain nursing and midwifery graduates “within our current budget limits”.
“UL Hospitals Group has to comply with the current national recruitment controls, which require appointments to be approved nationally,” said the spokesperson.
Health Minister Mr Harris has repeatedly said that he wants every graduate nurse to be offered a job in the Irish health service.
Ms Fogarty said the INMO will be seeking a meeting with nurse management once they have met with the group executive next Wednesday. As well as UHL and the maternity hospital, the UL group includes Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, and St John’s Hospital Limerick.