THE 20 new beds allocated for Cork University Hospital will not be able to open until additional staff are recruited, a nurses union has warned.
Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Oireachtas Health Committee on Wednesday that up to 190 beds will be opened in hospitals across Ireland in the coming weeks in a bid to alleviate pressure on hospital emergency departments (ED).
The Department of Health confirmed to The Echo that 20 new beds have been earmarked for CUH, which has seen severe overcrowding in recent weeks.
Speaking to The Echo about the bed allocation, CUH consultant in emergency medicine, Dr Conor Deasy, said it is a step in the right direction. However, he said that the system is playing catch up and that these additional beds need to be opened immediately.
Liam Conway, Cork industrial relations officer for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), warned that the beds will not be able to open without more staff.
“There are significant deficits in nursing levels across the emergency department and medical and surgical wards,” he said.
“Areas within CUH remain significantly short on staff, increasing risks to patients and staff.
“Any plan to open additional beds would require the hospital to first fill the current 50 vacancies then put forward a funded plan and recruit the necessary staff to open additional bed capacity,” he added. “It is this union’s understanding that the hospital is not in a position to open any additional capacity at present due to the staffing shortages experienced in the current ward areas.
“Until these vacancies are addressed, bed capacity will not be increased,” warned Mr Conway, describing the Health Minister’s announcement as “aspirational”.
“The reality is, patients and staff will continue to experience significant understaffing and overcrowding in 2020 as the response by the government and HSE’s recruitment policy fails to address the process and current vacancies,” he added.
The Echo understands that the hospital is recruiting nurses on an ongoing basis.
The 20 new beds for CUH come just weeks after the hospital was denied additional funding from the HSE to open an additional 31 bed medical ward and provide staffing for it to deal with increased demand and overcrowding.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation claimed the hospital sought additional funding for the ward and staff as part of its winter plan, but that its request was denied by the HSE at national level.