Solidarity TD Mick Barry has said that the Taoiseach’s “non-reply” in relation to the 150 vacant nursing and midwifery posts in Cork city gives “no comfort” to nurses and midwives in Cork University Hospital (CUH) and Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH).
Addressing the Taoiseach during Tuesday’s Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, the Cork North Central TD asked whether any of the additional staff in the Taoiseach’s department have a “special focus on the vacancies in the frontline at the moment”.
“There are currently more than 100 key promotional frontline nursing and midwifery posts vacant in Cork city alone. A further 50 staff nursing vacancies in the CUH alone,” Deputy Barry said.
He said it is “not best practice” at the best of times and “certainly not in the middle of a pandemic” that such vacancies remain unfilled.
“We have a bureaucratic centralisation of recruitment within the HSE and I think that that's a big factor in the problem here.
“I think the common sense solution is that the directors of nursing and midwifery in the hospitals would be given the power to recruit where recruitment is necessary on the ground,” he said.
When asked when the 150 posts would be filled and whether he was prepared to delegate power to the director of nursing in relation to recruitment, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that Deputy Barry was “talking about the HSE in terms of how the HSE recruits staff”.
“Since the new Government came in, I’ve been constantly in touch with the HSE.
“From the get go I’ve been working on the idea of a separate workforce for contact tracing and for testing which the HSE and CEO and Minister for Health have been pushing very strongly,” the Taoiseach said.
Speaking to The Echo, Deputy Barry said that the Taoiseach’s answer was a “non-reply”.
“The Taoiseach's non-reply will give no comfort to our frontline nurses and midwives in CUH and CUMH.
“However, we will be keeping the pressure on the Government on this issue in the days and weeks ahead,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Barry also put to the Taoiseach the issue of Covid-19 staffing levels in the context of the administration of a vaccine.
“If, as we all hope, we have a vaccine in the New Year, it's going to take a lot of staff to administer that vaccine.
“Not everyone is qualified to administer a vaccine, you have to be a nurse with certain qualifications or be a pharmacist with certain qualifications, obviously there's going to be an incredible level of demand for that.
“Surely you don’t envisage that it can be administered on the basis of current staffing levels, there will need to be special provisions and recruitment put in place there,” he said.
Deputy Barry also made the point that “it is very important that the administration of the vaccine is done through the public health system”.
“We can’t have a situation where the administration of the avvine is less than 100% of what it could be and should be through the public health system and then private operators charging from vaccines.” Mr Martin said that the vaccine will be “a huge logistical exercise” and that “work is already underway” in relation to vaccine research projects.