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Media Watch - Staffing levels crisis

The INMO survey on staffing levels in maternity hospitals and units was well covered in the media, Ann Keating reports

Shortfall of 621 midwives ‘is putting mums’ safety at risk’ was a headline in the Herald (March 7). “Maternity units around the country are 35% understaffed, putting the safety and care of mothers giving birth at risk, according to a survey by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO). It shows the 19 maternity units are understaffed by 621 nurses leaving us well behind international standards. The INMO survey shows that not one maternity unit in this country reaches the internationally recommended ratio of one midwife to 29.5 births.”

Meanwhile, The Irish Times (March 7) outlined that the INMO would be pressing the Department of Health for: “the immediate lifting of the recruitment moratorium; the immediate start of a national/international recruitment drive for midwives; the immediate commencement of Back to Midwifery programmes (for staff who have left the health system) in all major centres across the country; the recommencement of postgraduate programmes leading to registration as a midwife and an increase, for a minimum of four years, in the number of undergraduate places for the four-year midwifery degree programme from the current 140 per annum to 200.”

The Laois Nationalist (March 4) covered the INMO’s response to the publication of the report from the Department of Health on incidents which occurred in the maternity unit in Portlaoise General Hospital. “The INMO welcomed the anticipated HIQA investigation but quizzed why the body did not undertake such a review, following its request for same, made in writing, in August 2013.”

According to Liam Doran, INMO general secretary “The midwives in this unit, as far back as 2006 and every year since, repeatedly identified their concerns about staffing levels and their implications for mothers and newborn babies. Their concerns were ignored, particularly by senior general management, and exacerbated by the fundamentally flawed recruitment embargo in place since late 2008.”

He said that: “the major problems would only be addressed effectively by staffing and resourcing rather than restructuring governance.”

The Irish Examiner (February 27) reported on the RN4CAST Study published in The Lancet – Study links nurse ratios with patient deaths. “The INMO has called on the government to lift its ban on nurse recruitment after an international study found patient outcomes are worse the heavier a nurse’s workload. The study – which examined the link between nurse staffing and education and hospital mortality in nine European countries, including Ireland – also found that a better educated nurse workforce is associated with fewer deaths.”

Liam Doran said “The study….confirmed what the union has been saying for years, that the ‘savage’ reduction in nursing posts since 2009 was contrary to evidence-based best practice and must be reversed.”

He added: “Last year alone, there was a net reduction in nursing posts of 892. They are the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) own figures.”

Mr Doran said “the government needed to act on foot of the stark findings of the international study, which showed that every extra patient added to a nurse’s workload increases the risk of death within a month of surgery by 7%. It also found a 10% increase in the proportion of nurses holding a bachelor degree was associated with 7% lower surgical death rates. The challenge that arises out of this study is for policy-makers…The question is do they accept it? And if they do, what are they going to do about it?”

“The authors, who included researchers from Dublin City University, also said research into nursing “has had little policy traction in Europe compared with the US” where almost half of the 50 states have implemented, or are considering, hospital nurse staffing legislation.”

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda
The Drogheda Leader (March 12) reported on a press release issued regarding overcrowding in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda – Disaster calls – Call for Major Disaster Protocol to be put in place in Drogheda hospital due to overcrowding.

“Severe overcrowding in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda this week has led to a call from the INMO for the Major Disaster Protocol to be invoked at the hospital and for it to go off call for at least 24 hours.”

IRO Tony Fitzpatrick said: “The equivalent of two full wards are waiting for admission in the emergency department. The situation is extremely dangerous for patients and staff and the INMO is calling for the hospital to be taken off call immediately. Staff are deeply distressed at the level of overcrowding especially as trolleys are now overflowing to the adjoining corridors. They are concerned for the wellbeing of patients and their colleagues as they endeavour to provide safe care for patients.”

Mr Fitzpatrick concluded: “An urgent review is required of bed capacity within the Louth/Meath Hospital Group and the availability of beds in the community. Also there is a requirement for additional community nursing resources in the area to assist in the discharge of patients from hospital.”

Ann Keating is the INMO media relations officer email:annkeating@inmo.ie

Media Watch - Staffing levels crisis


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