Government health spending ‘could be wasted’ without staffing plan, warn nurses union

Government health spending ‘could be wasted’ without staffing plan, warn nurses union

The government’s €4 billion spending boost for the health service “could be wasted” without plans to get staffing right, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) will warn the Oireachtas health committee today.

The government announced a €4 billion spending boost for the health sector in Budget 2021 last week, in a bid to increase bed capacity and staff across the service.

The INMO welcomed the additional health budget but expressed concern that new bed capacity must be matched by staffing.

General Secretary of the INMO, Phil Ni Sheaghdha, during a recent special committee meeting on Covid-19 at Leinster House on Kildare Street, Dublin.
General Secretary of the INMO, Phil Ni Sheaghdha, during a recent special committee meeting on Covid-19 at Leinster House on Kildare Street, Dublin.

The government’s proposed 67 extra critical care beds, for example, would require the equivalent of 435 full-time nurses to staff, according to the union who will address the Oireachtas health committee today.

The INMO will warn of looming pressures in the medium term, as overseas recruitment during Covid becomes more difficult.

In 2019, nearly two thirds (62%) of new nurses and midwives in Ireland were trained overseas.

The INMO will call on the committee to recommend a funded workforce plan setting out how many staff the HSE will hire; recruitment powers be returned to local managers to overcome bureaucratic delays in hiring; more undergraduate nursing and midwifery places to ensure a stronger supply of staff; pay for student nurses and midwives during their placements in the health service; and a reduction in healthcare worker infection rates, through regular, universal Covid-19 testing in all healthcare settings.

INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:

“The government has given the health service a much-needed shot in the arm with this health spending.

"But if we don’t get staffing right, it could be wasted,” she warned.

“In the short run, we need to see a proper workforce plan from the HSE and the return of recruitment powers to local managers.

“Our health service should be adopting an ‘all hands on deck’ approach, instead of delaying recruitment,” she said.

“Recruiting more staff will also help retain the ones we currently have.

“For the future of our health service, we need to be training more undergraduate nurses and midwives in Ireland.

“Over 5,000 people put nursing or midwifery as their first choice in the Leaving Cert, but we only have space for a little over a third of them.

“The health service can also keep people at work by ensuring that they aren’t exposed to this virus.

“That means ending exemptions to the self-isolation policy and bringing in regular testing in all healthcare settings.”

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