Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) have, following nationwide ballot, given their strong backing for a campaign of action, if required, to secure necessary initiatives to address the severe staffing/recruitment/retention issues facing nursing and midwifery in this country.
The ballot result showed that 90% of members voted to support the campaign of action with a turnout of 62%.
This ballot took place with members expressing great concern over staffing levels, the resulting negative impact upon patient care, concern over their own ability to practice safely and the total disrespect, shown by health employers, towards nurses and midwives, by failing to actively recruit and retain nursing and midwifery staff.
In that context official figures confirm that nurse/midwife staffing levels are still 3,500 less, than the numbers employed in 2008, with the health service continuing to face ever growing complex demands.
The INMO Executive Council met this afternoon, to consider the ballot outcome and unanimously agreed the following next steps:
1. The Organisation will now write, directly, to the Minister for Health Mr. Simon Harris TD, and the Director General of the HSE Mr Tony O’Brien, calling for immediate round table talks, with an independent chair if necessary, for the purpose of agreeing special measures to address the staffing/recruitment/ retention crisis which continues to grow.
In the absence of the necessary measures being agreed these discussions must identify the services to be curtailed so that service activity is aligned with available staffing levels.
2. The Council will now issue an instruction, to all branches/units of the Organisation, to establish, campaign committees, in all workplaces to:
The mandate for action, arising from this ballot, provides for the following:
a series of one day strikes; and
a continuous work to rule which would include:
The work to rule will be designed to confine services to that appropriate to the nurse and midwifery staffing levels available. It will, therefore, inevitably lead to the closure of beds and the curtailment of services across the country.
The INMO Executive Council also agreed to hold a further, special meeting, on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, to review management’s response and finalise the timetable for subsequent steps in this campaign.
This vote confirms that nurses and midwives who are working in intolerable and unsafe workplaces which are overcrowded and understaffed are unwilling to continue as if nothing is wrong. The Executive Council cite the following as aggravating factors which have led to this massive yes vote:
1. The failure to include any provision in the Health Budget and Service Plan, for 2017, of any resources to allow the continued implementation of the Taskforce on Nurse Staffing, in medical/surgical wards, which provides an evidence based approach to staffing these areas.
2. We are now experiencing record levels of overcrowding, in Hospital Emergency Departments and in-patient wards. (See table attached).
However the Department of Health/HSE have failed to implement recommendations from the Emergency Department Expert Group, issued in August, which recommended the recruitment of additional, permanent, nurses to look after admitted patients in all Emergency Departments.
3. The failure of multiple employers, at local level, to honour, and implement, staffing agreements due to their inability to recruit and retain staff leaving such agreements as meaningless to members and patients.
4. The failure, in reality, to offer all nurse/midwife graduates, this year, permanent posts despite numerous public commitments that this would occur.
5. The complete failure of health management, again despite repeated commitments, to provide educational supports, and professional development pathways, for all nurses and midwives which would aid recruitment and retention.
6. The continuing, and growing, practice of senior management overruling the clinical judgement of Directors of Nursing/Midwifery, who seek to exercise their autonomy and authority to fill vacant posts to ensure patient safety.
The Executive also expressed frustration and disbelief at recent utterances from government sources which suggested that there was no evidence of a recruitment and retention problem across the public service other than at senior management level.
This is fundamentally wrong, at complete variance with what health employers have repeatedly put on the record in recent months and suggests that central government is either unaware, or unwilling to recognise, the extent of the current crisis.
Speaking this evening INMO President Martina Harkin-Kelly said:
“This Organisation’s members have spoken, loudly and clearly, and have given us a strong mandate for a campaign of action, if required, to secure special staffing/recruitment/retention initiatives. In recent weeks I have met with hundreds of our members, in workplaces across the country, and have been repeatedly angered and frustrated at what I have found in relation to staffing levels, workloads and the attitude of management towards these dedicated frontline professionals.
Our members have suffered eight years of staff shortages, excessive workloads and having their voice, and professional judgement, ignored by the system which is fixated on budgets and targets and certainly not on patients and quality of care.
The responsibility now rests with management to engage with this Organisation, in the coming weeks and agree the necessary initiatives that will begin to address this problem. If we continue to face the current attitude, of indifference, then we will initiate the action, behind this mandate, without hesitation”.
INMO General Secretary Liam Doran concluded:
“The choice for both the Department of Health and the HSE is now quite clear. Either they agree the necessary measures/initiatives, to address the current crisis and ensure a supply of nurses and midwives into the future, or services will have to be curtailed leading to bed closures and the contraction of community nursing services.
We will write, immediately, to the Minister and the Director General proposing roundtable discussions, with an independent chair if necessary, while also establishing workplace campaign committees should this engagement fail and industrial action be necessary.
Nurses and midwives have had enough. They will not tolerate indifference any longer and tangible, significant, measures are needed immediately”.