Hospital facing Christmas staff crisis

A crisis is looming at University Hospital Waterford over Christmas as up to 100 shifts will have no staff cover, it has been claimed.

Psychiatric nurses (members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association PNA) held a lunchtime protest at University Hospital Waterford.

Psychiatric nurses protested for 90 minutes yesterday afternoon at St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny and University Hospital Waterford to highlight ongoing overcrowding and a staffing crisis faced by patients at the two acute mental health admission units.

Members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) are demanding the provision of new and expanded community services, a more rigorous management of beds, long-stay beds, and “an end to understaffing to address the crisis in services in the Kilkenny and Waterford region”.

Michael Hayes, PNA industrial relations officer, said: “Our message is clear — nurses are not prepared to continue to struggle to deliver vital services in the care environment where they cannot treat patients in the manner that they expect and deserve to be treated.

“Nurses have been left with no option but to mount their protests to highlight the intolerable pressures that understaffing and under-resourcing in Kilkenny and Waterford are placing on staff.

“This is resulting in an unacceptable environment for patient care.”

The PNA has highlighted a number of instances this year when overcrowding led to patients, both children and adults, spending the night on chairs when there was no bed for them.

Mr Hayes said: “The common response from management when these episodes are highlighted is that changes will occur, but as these protests show, nurses have seen no changes and patients continue to encounter mental health services that cannot be delivered professionally while things remain as they are.

“The levels of understaffing are illustrated by the fact that PNA is currently negotiating with management in Waterford to avert a major staffing crisis over Christmas where the service is being expected to operate with no staff to cover 100 shifts over the holiday period.

“The acute unit in Kilkenny is currently seven staff short, and lack of long-term rehabilitation care and poor bed management is now creating overcrowding in St Luke’s for the first time ever.”

Earlier this year, a 16-year-old was left to sleep on a chair at the adult psychiatric unit after she was admitted to University Hospital Waterford for treatment.

The unit has had to deal with overcapacity levels at least 20 times this year alone, according to the PNA.

In a statement, the HSE said it is continuing talks with the PNA and that the highest quality of care for patients is a top priority.

Last December, a Mental Health Commission report found a critical level of non-compliance in the 44-bed unit in six areas and a high level of non-compliance in seven areas of operation.

Currently, there are no Child and Adolescent Mental Health beds, no Community Mental Health services as envisaged under the Vision for Change report, or day hospital facilities available in the Waterford mental health services.

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