An extra 1,722 nurses must be recruited to fill existing vacancies within the health system, according to figures from the largest nursing organisation.
The Irish Nursing and Midwives Organisation’s director of industrial relations yesterday told the annual delegate conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, that the INMO would dispute government claims it had recruited 1,000 nurses.
Phil Ní Sheaghda said two thirds of nursing appointments are existing staff moving within the public service and are not new recruits.
“The acute hospitals’ division tells us, that of the entire number they manage to recruit, 66% of them are already public servants. They are either working in a voluntary hospital or somewhere else within the system.”
Ms Ní Sheaghda said the problems with staffing levels are exacerbated by the system’s inability to retain nurses. Figures from the acute hospitals’ division show 74 fewer staff nurses working in February 2016 compared to December 2014.
She said a “snapshot” taken last September showed while there were 1,624 nurses due to start a new job, 1,287 were leaving their existing role.
With agency figures taken into account, she also said there are 1,272 nursing vacancies that should be filled. That figure rises to 1,722 when a new maternity hospitals’ agreement, seeking to have one midwife per 29.5 births, is considered. The union’s general secretary Liam Doran described the figures as “shocking”.
Meanwhile, the INMO has called on the Government to adopt a zero tolerance approach to anyone who verbally or physically abuses a nurse.
Delegates heard of one Cork nurse who has not worked for two years having been assaulted by a patient.
Margaret Frahill of the INMO executive council told delegates the nurse suffered head and neck injuries after she was pushed over by a female patient. “This nurse has suffered greatly, is in constant pain, and is having weekly reviews with a physiotherapist and pain specialist. The nurse has not worked since and is not likely to work again for a very long time.
“She is married with children and her life has changed totally, and so has her family’s.
“The only support available to this nurse now is to fight for her rights and entitlement through the civil courts.”
Delegate Martin O’Cealleagh highlighted legislation in Australia that sentences anyone found guilty of assaulting a nurse to up to 14 years in prison.
There was a unanimous show of hands when Mr O’Cealleagh asked how many delegates had experienced verbal or physical assault in the workplace.
“We don’t have the knowledge base to appropriately address the violence being directed at us,” said Mr O’Ceallaigh.
“We need that support and those structures in place.”
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