Understaffing: public health nursing services facing closure in Galway
Public health nursing (PHN) services in Galway are facing emergency closure due to HSE refusal to fill two thirds of the posts, the INMO has today (Monday) warned.
Ballinasloe and Portumna PHN services typically have six nurses, but are now facing four vacancies (due to maternity leave, resignation and reassignment) which the employer is refusing to fill.
Local PHNs, their managers and the INMO have notified their employers that the service will be forced to shut on Friday 15th November, unless the vacant posts are filled.
Public Health Nurses provide care in the community, patients’ homes, schools and health centres. They are typically trained both as nurses and midwives. The alternative to public health nursing is often admission to hospital.
In a formal warning to management, staff and local management list the patients which the service will no longer be able to accept, including:
- Oncology/chemotherapy patients
- Acute hospital discharges
- New mothers, including post-natal care
- Child protection/health referrals
Many existing patients, in need of wound care, palliative care, and those with disabilities will be referred back to GPs and hospitals.
INMO Industrial Relations Officer in Galway, Anne Burke, said:
“No health service can function with only a third of the usual staff. Local management and frontline staff have tried their best to keep the show on the road, but it’s clearly reached a tipping point.
“Services are closing unnecessarily because of bureaucratic blindness. Senior managers in the HSE and the regional community health organisation need to replace these staff urgently to ensure patients do not suffer.
“Our hospitals are not in a position to take on these extra patients. This morning, there are already 30 patients lining corridors without beds in University Hospital Galway. Patients will not simply go away: they will be driven into already stretched hospitals and GP services.”
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:
“This is an extreme symptom of what is happening across the country. The HSE’s refusal to fill vital, frontline posts is weakening services. Cuts have consequences and exceptionally vulnerable patients are being forced to pay the price in Galway.
“It’s yet another example of the damaging role the HSE’s recruitment freeze is having.”