Audit undermines our attempts to improve hospitals

THE €20,000 fine on hospitals that ‘failed’ the hygiene audit is one of the most ridiculous moves ever made by a minister of health.

Hospitals have been underfunded for 20 years. While funding has now improved, they are struggling desperately to make up for the deficits the past underfunding created.

Bed percentage usage in Europe is approximately 70%. In Ireland it’s up to 120%. This places hospitals under considerably more pressure.

To fine the hospitals when they are already struggling makes no sense.

Would it not have been far more prudent to inspect the hospitals, allow sufficient time for improvements to be made, and then conduct the audit? The next audit is scheduled for three months after the first. How can sufficient improvements be made in this time without spending an inordinate amount of funds? In the past two months, some hospitals have spent up to €80,000 making improvements to pass the next audit so they can avoid a repeated and unfair slur on their reputations. Where is the funding for this coming from? Not the HSE. If it’s being taken from the general hospitals budget, it has to be compensated for somewhere. One would suspect and fear that it will come from the only area where funding can be controlled — the staffing level.

In some hospitals, the nurse to patient ratio is 1:6 in others (coincidentally, some of which failed the hygiene audit), it’s as high as 1:14.

Perhaps Mary Harney might answer a question which has been ignored by previous ministers: what is the safe nurse-patient ratio based on patient dependency rates? It’s certainly not 1:14.

To make comments such as “the trolley crisis situation is improving,” when we the nurses know it is getting worse, and to denigrate nursing practice without trying to help us improve the situation for our patients, is demoralising.

So far, Ms Harney has done little to improve health workforce morale.

Florence Horsman Hogan

RSCN/RGN

10 Seaview Wood

Shankill

Co Dublin

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