The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) welcomes the publication, this afternoon, of a winter initiative plan, to ease Emergency Department overcrowding complete with the allocation of additional funding of €40 million.
While welcoming all these initiatives, the key issue, left unresolved within the plan, is the ability of the public health service to recruit the additional staff, primarily nursing, that will be required to increase bed and service capacity as specified.
The INMO notes the setting of specific targets in such critically important areas as:
55 additional acute beds;
58 transitional care beds;
18 additional step down beds;
950 additional homecare packages;
expansion of community intervention teams;
setting a max target, of 236, for the number of patients on trolleys each morning.
In this regard the following is worth noting:
the INMO is currently in discussions, with a number of hospitals, on the issue of inadequate staffing, for existing bed numbers, with an increasing likelihood of beds having to close, in the short term, due to staff shortages;
many of the 300 beds, opened under last year’s winter initiative, are now closed due to staff shortages. The success of this plan will depend on the ability of the HSE to recruit sufficient staff to now open all available beds;
the need, as recommended in a recent report, to recruit additional, permanent, nursing staff to look after the admitted patients in Emergency Departments; and
the growing difficulty of recruiting staff to provide home help services around the country.
The INMO will now seek immediate meetings with the CEOs and Chief Officers, of the Hospital Groups and CHOs, to determine how they intend to implement the plan, as it applies to them and, in particular, what new measures they intend to initiate the crisis of nurse shortages across the system.
Speaking this afternoon INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said:
“The allocation of additional funding (€40 million) and the more specific targets, within this plan, are most welcome and are absolutely necessary as we face into the autumn/winter period.
However the plan, by failing address the difficulties in recruiting and retaining nursing staff, runs the risk of falling short, in terms of implementation, as local services will not be able to recruit the staff required to expand services. Additional services, either in terms of acute beds, step-down beds and/or community intervention teams are dependent on there being additional nursing staff. This will be a priority for the INMO as we immediately engage, at national and regional level, with the HSE, in the coming days with regard to implementing the measures outlined today”.