NURSES at St Finbarr’s Hospital have warned of increased staff turnover, heightened stress and declining patient care as a consequence of the loss of 21 nursing and healthcare assistant positions.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) spokesperson Liam Conway told the Evening Echo that the Health Service Executive (HSE) has proposed cutting full-time roles “up to and including 21 healthcare and nursing positions across St Finbarrs Hospital."
There are 16 vacant nursing positions currently being covered by 14 agency staff.
“What they are trying to do is take out the agency completely which is covering the 16 vacancies and they are basically telling the staff to get on with it without any agency or any recruitment.”
The INMO representative said they are to meet with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin today to discuss the potential cuts which will result in industrial action should they be pursued.
“Management wants the staff to work off 21 fewer positions - 16 nursing and five healthcare - while providing the same service. Our concerns are the effect this will have on the quality of care provided to patients and patient safety.
“We are in continuous talks with the HSE, “Mr Conway said, “There is an interim measure that the cuts are not being implemented while we are in talks, but if the agency pulls back, we will be serving notice of industrial action. We have deferred industrial action, but it can be sanctioned if talks break down or if the HSE is going to implement cuts.” Mr Conway said the INMO and their colleagues at Services Industrial Professional Technical Union (SIPTU), who represent the healthcare assistants, will be stressing a number of points to Mr Martin including the “detrimental effect” these cuts will have on patient care as well as on staff wellbeing.
“I have no doubt it will lead to a massive turn over of staff if implemented and mass burnout. It is not physically possible to deliver the care that is being delivered with 21 less healthcare and nursing staff. It is not possible.” Mr Conway also said that staff morale is at an all-time low and the staff are also under severe pressure.
“It is not a factory, this is patient care that is being delivered and you cannot compromise on that because of cost.” A HSE spokesperson said there are no plans to reduce the number of “directly-employed” staff at St Finbarr’s hospital.
“Ongoing efforts are being made to recruit nursing staff at St Finbarr's and to reduce reliance on the use of expensive agency staff and overtime. This follows a significant increase in the number of directly-employed staff in the last three years. “ The HSE also said a “staffing review” was underway at St Finbarr’s which hopes to ensure “safe and adequate staffing levels and skills mix to meet the care needs of the residents in long-term care and in the rehabilitation wards.
“Engagement with staff is underway in reviewing rosters to make sure that all staffing resources, including nurses and healthcare assistants, are used to best effect.” St Finbarr’s Hospital, on the Douglas Road, is one of 24 community hospitals in Cork Kerry Community Healthcare.