Staff losses impact on hospital’s safety

The loss of key staff at University Hospital Kerry (UHK) is jeopardising its ability to function safely, according to local Fianna Fáil TD John Brassil.

Mr Brassil outlines a litany of concerns in a letter to Ger O’Callaghan, chief operations officer of the South/Southwest hospital group, including a claim that the clinical director, Claire O’Brien, has temporarily stepped down from her post due to clinical pressure.

The hospital is currently without a full-time consultant cardiologist since the recent departure of heart specialist, Louis Keary.

The Irish Examiner asked the HSE who is looking after cardiac referrals in the wake of Dr O’Brien’s departure, and whether there is a backlog, but no response was forthcoming.

According to Mr Brassil, a consultant pathologist is also set to leave. He said that the hospital has only one consultant geriatrician and “the dedicated stroke unit is barely functional due to staff shortages”.

He said a diabetic clinic, open since 2015 “with a view to providing the same level of services as Cork University Hospital is also barely functional and has only one diabetes nurse”.

Mr Brassil argues that if there are staff shortages, and especially clinical staff shortages, at a certain hospital, it is the responsibility of the hospital group to step in and alleviate the pressure.

“As group chief operations officer, it is Mr O’Callaghan’s responsibility to ensure it operates as a group,” he said. “You can’t leave one hospital out on a limb.

“UHK is at crisis point. The safety and wellbeing of patients and staff is now being put at risk by the staffing crisis.”

He said the lack of a clinical director will only serve to compound the problems.

“It cannot be allowed to continue, and unless the Cork-Kerry Hospital Group, and the wider HSE, get its act together, patient safety will continue to be put at risk,” Mr Brassil said.

In October last year, the hospital was forced to undertake a review of more than 46,000 scans after concerns were raised about the work of a consultant radiologist. Eleven patients were identified as having a missed or delayed diagnosis and a total of 374 patients were recalled for re-imaging.

UHK has 300 inpatient beds and employs in the region of 1,000 staff, of whom approximately 100 are consultants and junior doctors.

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