Nursing staff backlog shuts beds

With a backlog of more than 2,300 nurses awaiting registration, nursing home operators have called on the health minister to put the crisis top of the agenda at today’s meeting of the Emergency Department (ED) Taskforce.

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) has written to Minister Leo Varadkar warning that beds are now being closed because of the sector’s inability to recruit adequate staff.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO, said the situation would cause chaos in the country’s EDs over the winter season because beds would not be available in the community forcing longer hospital stays, with a knock-on effect on hospital admissions and, consequently, ED trolley numbers.

“We are facing into the most profound crisis in our ED departments this winter because nursing homes are now being forced to reduce capacity arising from an escalating crisis in the processing of nurse registration applications,” Mr Daly said.

The backlog in registrations was at over 2,000 in July, according to the body responsible, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI). NMBI chief executive Dr Maura Pidgeon told the Oireachtas Health Committee at the time that there were 2,016 applications being processed, “half of which cannot progress due to incomplete documentation” from applicants. Of these applications, 35% (698) had been in the system for more than a year even though the NMBI is committed to processing overseas applications in 90 days and in 15 working days for nurses trained in Ireland.

Dr Pidgeon said the remaining 974 applications were received between January and June of this year, up from 302 applications received in the same period last year.

She said “notable contributory factors to the delay include staffing levels and funding, with revenue being significantly less than expected for 2015 due to a lower than expected annual retention fee”.

The NMBI had tried to hike the nurse retention fee from €100 to €150 from January of this year but a successful campaign by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) forced a u-turn in March.

Dr Pidgeon said there were delays in registration specifically for registration of overseas applicants but also in Irish registration in respect of issuing of certificates following restoration to the register for non-payment of fees. This year the number requesting restoration increased from 159 in 2014 to 1,472.

NHI said the registration backlog was at 2,316 as of September 4 and was now “beyond tipping point”.

Mr Daly said they had made representations to Mr Varadkar “ but his response to date has been ineffective”.

“The Minister needs to get his hands dirty and deal with the issues...Nursing homes are now closing beds because they do not have sufficient nurses to meet staffing requirements,” Mr Daly said.

The Department of Health said all hospital group CEOs will attend this morning’s taskforce meeting where they will outline their current position on trolleys; progress on delivery of additional capacity in acute hospitals and winter planning.


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