‘Patients put at risk over nursing shortages’

Nurses at Cork University Hospital have raised concerns over patient safety due to staff shortages at the hospital.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) claimed there were currently 78 vacant posts at the hospital, and that nurses in the affected wards were working longer shifts and not taking breaks to compensate. The HSE has refuted the claims.

INMO industrial relations officer Mary Rose Carroll said she did not want to name the wards affected but said they were “acute medical and surgical wards with highly dependent and sick patients with complex needs”.

Ms Carroll said the nurses had first raised the issue of staff shortages in June but despite assurances that vacancies would be filled, the problem was persisting.

She said three wards in particular were affected and Ms Carroll said: “They do not have enough nurses to look after patients safely.

“The nurses are really working beyond capacity, with longer shifts and no breaks and with twice the number of patients they would have had [previously]. They are very distressed and in despair. They are spreading themselves too thinly. They are compromised on a daily basis.”

The INMO said the issue was a “legacy” of recent years in which no new nurses were recruited, and in an environment where nursing posts in the UK and elsewhere are seen by both Irish nursing graduates and nurses from overseas as being a more attractive proposition than working in the Irish health system.

Ms Carroll said that CUH was actively recruiting but “they can’t get them in quick enough”.

She said agency staff may also be an option but that first and foremost the nurses believed the issue was one of patient safety.

“It was not easy for the nurses to raise these issues,” she said. “They were promised this would be sorted out by August, but August is coming and going.

“We hope to seek an early meeting with management to resolve it,” Ms Carroll said. “If not we will have to consult our members regarding any future action.”

In a HSE statement, the executive board of Cork University Hospital refuted the assertions made by the INMO.

“There are currently 42 vacancies in the hospital and an intensive recruitment programme is in place since January 2015,” it said, adding that a 31 bed ward was closed on July 17 because of the need to amalgamate wards to maximise the available staffing resource - something done “with great regret in view of the inevitable impact on the Emergency Department.”

According to the statement CUH recruitment is ongoing with interview boards held on a weekly basis, with three interview panels speaking with candidates yesterday, including interviews via Skype with candidates in the UK, America, and Australia.

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