Fears over shortage of nurses in west region

AS management in the HSE West prepare to meet today to discuss a raft of job cuts among temporary staff, a report on the region indicates potentially dangerous shortfalls in nursing numbers.

The report, prepared by Carmel Hoey of HSE West’s Nursing and Midwifery Planning and Development Unit, looked at the impact of the Government’s recruitment and promotion embargo on nursing and midwifery services in the west.

It found that while just 9% of whole-time-equivalent nursing positions were vacant by December 2009, it was 30% in some areas, most notably mental health services. It also found 67% of all vacancies are from frontline positions.

The report claimed there was a direct impact on patient/client care in the sites surveyed and that many new services had either been put on hold or deferred.

“The moratorium is having a bigger impact on front-line grades than on management/specialist grades,” the report said.

“67% of all vacancies are from frontline positions. [There is] low staff morale because of staff shortages and older peoples’ services are finding it difficult to comply with HIQA standards of care.”

SIPTU national nursing official Louise O’Reilly said the figures were extremely worrying.

“Like a lot of averages they hide some very serious deviations from the norm that are stretching services to breaking point.

“For instance, 32% of mental health nursing positions were vacant in Clare.

“Even the relatively low whole-time-equivalent vacancy rate of 5% for acute medical services obscures situations such as the 23% vacancy rate in the Regional Orthopaedic Hospital, Croom,” Ms O’Reilly said.

SIPTU said the report pointed to “staff shortages in maternity services leading to increased risk in areas such as caesarean sections and induction of labour and an increase in violent incidents in mental health services”.

The union has threatened strike action over plans to cut staffing levels further to address the €90 million overspend in the sector.

Nonetheless, HSE West’s regional director for operations, John Hennessy, demanded his managers draw up plans for job losses across the sector ahead of a meeting today.


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