Mayo psychiatric nurses almost halved in number in two years
SIPTU’s Nursing Sector President, Padraig Heverin, who is also a psychiatric nurse at St Mary’s Hospital, Castlebar has described the loss of 112 nurses in Mayo during the past two years as ‘a crisis’ for mental health patients in the county.
Last week it was announced that up to 400 psychiatric nurses would be lost in Ireland this year as a result of the Government’s early retirement scheme with Mayo potentially set to lose an additional 15 nurses in 2012.
Speaking to The Mayo News Mr Heverin said that the Governments moratorium on recruitment is having a devastating effect on services in Mayo. In just 24 months the number of psychiatric nurses has fallen from 249 to 137.
“Because there’s generally an older age profile here there’s a significantly higher proportion of nurses retiring in Mayo and the west than in more urbanised parts of the country,” he said.
Mr Heverin said that while a few years ago nurses were traditionally working past the retirement age of 55 until 57 or 60, now all of the nurses of retirement age are retiring at 55 which is leaving services with massively inadequate resources.
“We’re in despair and we really cannot provide our service. We’re working with less. Wards that had six nurses now have three and are struggling to operate. It will come to a point where we cannot do any more. At times there has been wards and units with nobody on them. We’ll have to close wards eventually because it’s impossible to continue.”
Mr Heverin was also highly critical of the delay in the HSE West budget allocation which he said he enquired about last November.
“I requested the figures last November and it’s almost March now and I’m still waiting. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to know what the figures are for 2012.”
The SIPTU representative described the lack of communication as ‘a failure of management’ and ‘suspicious’ that despite more than 100 less nurses working and earning a salary in Mayo the money seems to have disappeared.
He continued, “If you reduce the services by taking 100 nurses away you might for example expect to save €60,000 a nurse or €6 million but where is it gone?
“There has been an increase in people availing of our mental health services. We had 250 nurses and how can you now expect 35 or 37 now to do the same? More than seven of our nurses are presently out of work recovering after assaults, and a number of others are absent because of long-term illnesses. It’s critical, it’s a crisis.”