Responding to persistent levels of overcrowding Letterkenny University Hospital, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has called for a bespoke plan to tackle issues of overcrowding and staff safety in the hospital.
INMO Industrial Relations Officer, Neal Donoghue said:
“Letterkenny University Hospital is currently experiencing very high levels of patient attendance leading to overcrowded and unsafe conditions in the hospital. This is a hospital-wide problem where the Emergency Department and wards that are in escalation are overcrowded, providing the ideal environment for COVID-19 to thrive.
“High levels of community transmission of COVID-19 and concerns regarding the rapid spread of Omicron are causing an unrest amongst the nursing staff who feel the hospital environment is unsafe for them as workers and unsafe for their patients.
“The INMO has sought information regarding the ventilation and air filtration in Letterkenny UH last September. Management have not yet been able to confirm they have appropriate resilience against airborne transmission of Covid-19 in the hospital. Given the excessive overcrowding we are deeply concerned that enough is not being done to mitigate the risks of covid-19 transmission in the Hospital.
“Where extra beds and trolleys are placed on wards, extra staff are not provided to care for those patients. Staff report fears that care being compromised as a result.
“Letterkenny University Hospital has consistently been in the top three most overcrowded hospitals almost daily since October. So far in December there has been 708 patients on trolleys, accounting for 12% of the total national figure.
“This is a very serious issue of public safety and staff safety. The HSE have an obligation to provide a safe place of work and they are failing in that duty of care. Nurses report on a daily basis that they fear patients are at increased risk due to the failure of the HSE to resolve health and safety concerns in the hospital.
“Due to the high levels of patient attendance one nurse in the ED is expected to care for over twenty patients at a time. There is no doubt with such poor staffing ratios patient care will be compromised. Due to the excessive workloads staff often miss breaks and are being asked to defer annual leave. This is resulting in stress and burnout of staff and is adding to the problem with retaining nursing staff.
“The INMO have escalated issues of concern to Saolta. Urgent action must be taken to improve the working conditions in the hospital, to retain staff, and to resolve the overcrowding problem and to ensure the public receive the timely and safe care they need.”