Give us the staff we need to beat COVID, says INMO conference
Frontline nurses and midwives need a major staffing boost urgently to deal with COVID-19, according to an emergency motion passed at the INMO’s annual conference today (Friday).
The motion calls for:
• Repeal of the derogation policy which brings potentially COVID-positive healthcare staff back to work before completing their self-isolation period;
• Powers to be restored to Directors of Nursing and Midwifery to hire the staff they need urgently;
• Funding to implement the safe staffing framework for nursing;
• Mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for all staff in acute and community healthcare services.
The motion calls on the INMO’s Executive Council to revert to members in six weeks’ time to see if sufficient progress has been made.
The HSE has claimed that 1,600 additional nurses have been hired since May. The INMO has highlighted that 1,300 of these are not qualified nurses, but are in fact students who have been temporarily hired.
Since December 2019, approximately only 240 additional staff nurses and midwives have been recruited.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:
“The message from our members is clear. Frontline nurses and midwives simply do not have enough staff to do the job safely.
“Our members are facing risky COVID environments with high levels of fatigue. This will only intensify as winter approaches. If we want to provide safe care and protect staff, we simply need to increase staffing. Our unpaid student nurses are being relied on to fill vacancies and this not acceptable.
“That means giving managers the powers to hire, ending the derogations policy which risks infecting more staff, increasing staff testing, and funding a proper staffing plan.
“Our members have instructed us to seek these measures from the government and report back within six weeks on any progress made.”
Outgoing INMO President, Martina Harkin-Kelly, said:
“Nursing and midwifery are team professions. Without the proper numbers, patient and staff safety are put at risk.
“I do not think our frontline members’ message could be simpler: give us the staff we need and protect us from the virus. We should not be left asking ‘please sir, can we have some more?’
“1 in 12 COVID cases have been nurses and midwives. We have been disproportionately hit by this virus – it’s time for the Minister to act on our concerns.”
The full text of the motion passed is below:
Conference calls on the incoming Executive Council to:
- maintain focus and pressure to prioritise the issue of nurse/midwife health and safety protections during these difficult times.
- Set time frames for the introduction of real measures across all nursing and midwifery services, to ensure safety at work for nurses and midwives is realised;
- evaluate progress on these matters and revert to the membership in six weeks to determine if sufficient progress has been made.
Specifically focus must be brought on:
- Revision of the Derogation policy which place a secondary value on the safety, health and welfare of nurses and midwives -which is unacceptable. Considering over 2,400 infections are recorded in nursing/midwifery grades. This is wholly unacceptable stepping into the winter period. We know this virus thrives in a fatigued workforce.
- Removal of impediments to recruitment: Nurses and midwives already pulled out all the stops over an extraordinarily busy winter 2019/20, a moratorium on recruitment was imposed which decreased staffing recruitment, causing greater workloads for those left to carry the burden at work. They then went straight into reorganising the health services in March 2020 and working in the front line of a pandemic and are now mentally and physically exhausted.
- Realisation of safe and guaranteed staffing: Covid-19 places enormous pressure on nurses and midwives, whether working directly with Covid-19 patients or redeployed to understaffed non designated Covid areas. Guaranteed staffing, paid breaks and leave must be provided to avoid burnout and the ultimate breakdown of frontline services.
- Real zero tolerance of Overcrowding: Overcrowded hospitals are never acceptable and never more so than now. Therefore, the system must be transparent in demonstrating Zero Tolerance.
This conference requires of the Minister for Health and HSE to immediately:
- Approve the decentralisation of recruitment to front line Directors of Nursing and Midwifery and remove the bureaucracy which slows recruitment. This leads to daily understaffed rosters and thus puts nurses and midwives at risk.
- Approve funding to fully fund the framework on nurse staffing and skill mix and needs to combined with a minimum safe staffing level, set by legalisation, to ensure this health and safety risk is not allowed to continue as has happened over the past decade.
- Apply the same isolation period of 14 days as set out in public health guidelines and remove the derogation allowed for managers to apply a shorter period for HCW staff who are close contacts with a positive case. Such a derogation relegates the welfare of staff behind the need to fill gaps in staffing. Twice daily temperature monitoring is merely lip service considering what is known about asymptomatic presentation and this policy poses a real and present danger of infection to other staff and patients.
- Avoid increasing nurse/midwife fatigue by providing paid leave following rostered periods in COVID positive environments.
- Act on testing: Commence mandatory weekly testing of all staff in acute and community services, as is currently the case in older persons long term care.
- Accept responsibility as an employer for the health and safety of staff by Classifying Covid 19 as an occupational injury, thus allowing for health care specific data collection and planning for disease preventative measures particular to healthcare workplaces. The protection of worker rights and the follow-on care for those infected is an essential responsibility for any employer and is sadly lacking in our workplaces.
- Adherence to robust engagement with local Infection Prevention and Control teams to promote consistency in the implementation of best practice guidelines relating to Covid 19, across all healthcare services.