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Media Watch - Staffing hits headlines

Ireland’s health service staffing crisis and emigration trend came under the media spotlight at ADC last month, Ann Keating reports

Despite a number major news stories breaking during the INMO’s three-day annual delegate conference in Kilkenny, the Organisation got widespread media coverage of the event. The following is a small snapshot.

Nurses say politicians ‘fixated’ on costs was a headline on an article by Paul Cullen in The Irish Times (May 8).

“Politicians from all parties have become ‘fixated’ on health costs despite the fact that Ireland spends far less than other countries on its health service.”

Liam Doran said: “More than 5,000 nursing and midwifery posts have been lost since 2009, and 830 alone last year as a result of the recruitment embargo… and this is negatively affecting services… We have now reached the point where we’re cutting bone, but in the absence of a change of policy at Government level, we are going to continue cutting bone.”

Mr Doran pointed out that more than 22,300 patients were on trolleys in hospital emergency departments from January to April this year and that more than 2,000 beds in hospitals around the State remained closed.”

Jennifer Bray covered the Conference in the Irish Daily Mail (May 8) under a headline Nurses’ exodus to UK – 4,000 fed-up staff headed across sea, claims INMO.

“Thousands of our highly trained nurses are poised to leave these shores for Britain in the coming months because they are so disillusioned by prospects here, according to the INMO.”

Liam Doran said “he was aware that there is now a need for thousands more healthcare workers in Britain… He said 1,000 graduate nurses have emigrated since last September, and this figure looks set to climb.”

“He said there has been a ‘totally unmanaged downsizing of the health system’ which has left every ward short… as a result of downsizing plans, thousands of nurses could be lost in the next 21 months.”

Catherine Shanahan, writing in the Irish Examiner (May 9) covered the launch of the INMO Safe Staffing Campaign under a headline INMO wants 1 nurse per 4 patients – Union’s campaign would mean recruiting 8,000 extra nurses.

“Around 8,000 additional nursing staff would need to be recruited to meet the target set by the INMO of one nurse for every four patients in busy hospital wards… The campaign, underpinned by a call to enshrine mandatory safe staffing levels in law, will draw on the experience of a largely successful Australian campaign where orchestrated bed closures helped force the hand of the government of New South Wales.

“The conference agreed its immediate next steps in the campaign will include seeking an end to the recruitment embargo; presenting international evidence to government supporting the call for improved nurse ratios; and lobbying political parties to commit to one nurse to four patients in busy times in the run up to the general election.”

“INMO president Claire Mahon said the “current reality of one nurse looking after over eight patients on day shifts and over 12 patients at night cannot continue and that research confirmed the risks involved for patients.”

The story continued in The Irish Times (May 10) – Reilly taskforce to examine nurse staffing levels.

“Minister for Health James Reilly has responded to concerns among nurses about staffing levels by setting up a taskforce to examine the issue. The announcement was made yesterday at the annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, which hasbegun a lobbying campaign for better staffing ratios in nursing.”

Martin Frawley covered some of the issues in the Industrial Relations News (May 15) under a heading Impasse in LRC talks on transfer of tasks from junior doctors to nurses.

“Labour Relations Commission talks between the HSE and nurses over the transfer of tasks from junior doctors to nurses have hit an impasse, it was revealed last week… Director of Industrial Relations, Phil Ni Sheaghdha, said that a joint union/management survey in four major hospitals on the measurement of savings from the transfer of the four tasks found that savings of up to €1m were possible in the Mater hospital alone.

“She said that the unions pushed for the transfer of tasks and that the savings accrued be used to restore the twilight payment of time plus 1/6th for work between 6pm and 8pm, which was abolished under the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA). However, Ms Ni Sheaghdha said that the HSE, as well as the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform, insisted that the transfer of tasks be done first and that once the actual savings have been measured consideration can be given to restoration of twilight payments to nurses… the issue is now likely to go forward to arbitration as provided under the HRA.”

“On pay and the HRA, conference unanimously passed motions which seek to commence a campaign in 2015 to seek reinstatement of all rights, entitlements, benefits and the 37.5 hour week, immediately the Haddington Road Agreement expires…

“Deputy General Secretary, Dave Hughes, said the union had ‘learnt lessons’ when it was ‘left on its own’ to resist the pay cuts last year and said ‘we need to gather all the unions together’ this time for what he said was a pay restoration claim.”

Ann Keating is the INMO media relations officer email: annkeating@eircom.net

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