Cancer nurses at CUH back work to rule if staffing issue not solved

A dispute over staffing levels on a cancer ward in Cork University Hospital (CUH) is headed for the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) after nurses voted in favour of industrial action.

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), hospital management has failed to report back on a review it agreed to last May which would examine staffing numbers and bed capacity on the GB radiotherapy ward.

Since then, six additional beds have opened on what was a 20-bed ward. The bed increase without a concomitant increase in staff means nurses cannot provide optimal care, according to union spokesperson Mary Rose Carroll.

Ms Carroll said the INMO had written to management eight times between December and April formally outlining their concerns for patient safety, but no progress had been made. A meeting took place in December after the first correspondence, but none has taken place since.

She said management was now looking at recruitment but that it should have done so before the extra beds opened last November.

“It’s a case of putting the cart before the horse,” Ms Carroll said. “If you are opening more beds, then it’s good management to plan first for providing additional resources.”

As management had ignored nurses’ concerns, Ms Carroll said they had little option but to ballot for industrial action. She said members had voted “overwhelmingly” in favour and notice has been served on the hospital that a work-to-rule will take place on May 23 unless a solution is found.

“A work-to-rule means the nurses will be focusing on nursing care and not engaging in clerical or administrative duties,” Ms Carroll said.

A statement from the Health Service Executive said CUH management “continues to engage with all parties in relation to Ward GB Radiotherapy and the issues raised”.

The statement said because a WRC conference is scheduled to take place tomorrow, it would be “inappropriate to comment further at this point”.

The review agreed last May was also to examine skill mix to include nurse management grades on the ward; rosters; acuity levels/dependency levels/nursing metrics oncology and early warning score notifications (to facilitate early detection of deterioration in a patient’s condition).


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