THE poor treatment of hospital staff and the state of on-call rooms and other staff facilities are exacerbating the recruitment and retention crisis in Ireland, according to a former Cork consultant.
Dr Chris Luke, former consultant of emergency medicine and now a columnist with the Irish Medical Times, has called for a health-staff czar to be appointed to ensure that hospitals in Ireland are providing adequate facilities and provisions for staff.
Speaking to The Echo, Dr Luke said: “In a nutshell, the health service is screaming out for staff and yet hospital management is allowing the staff that are actually there to sleep in filthy beds in filthy on-call rooms.
“Staff rooms are left filthy and unstocked, hospitals charge staff for parking (they fail to pay them because of payslip misunderstandings), they allow them to be emergency taxed for months on end, because of workplace changes, and on and on and on it goes.
“I’m convinced that if they brought in somebody, like a staff-care czar, these issues could be addressed,” Dr Luke said.
“We don’t have one single leader nationally to address these hospital issues and I think that has to change.
“In each hospital, there should then be a staff ombudsman or ombudswoman, who would represent the needs of staff to the medical director or chief executive, stating the conditions are absolutely unacceptable.
“If those issues are not addressed, the matter should go to the staff-care czar who should have the power to implement really severe sanctions, such as the loss of recognition for training,” he added.
Dr Luke explained that doctors are “grossly overworked” and expected to go above and beyond for the health service and their patients.
“That’s why doctors need to be looked after and, because they’re not, they’re leaving in their droves for Down Under,” he said.
“There is a culture of not treating hospital staff correctly and it needs to be addressed.”
As well as calling for a health-staff czar, Dr Luke highlighted the need for a study to be conducted to determine the culture and values among medical staff in Ireland, to better inform recruitment and retention efforts across the sector.
In response, the HSE said that “ensuring the wellbeing of employees and service users is a priority concern for the HSE”.
“There are a wide range of resources available to support staff and these are coordinated by the HSE’s Workplace Health and Wellbeing Unit.
“The HSE Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a free, confidential support service that aims to provide the right wellbeing supports and interventions for staff and service managers, at the right time,” a spokesperson for the HSE added.
“These services include EAP counselling for personal and work-related issues, psychosocial support, critical-incident stress-management response and manager consultation on staff-wellbeing issues. All information available for staff on the Employee Assistance Programme is available at HSE.ie.
“All issues in relation to cleaning can be highlighted and are managed locally,” the spokesperson said.
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