VERY CONCERNED Senator Rose Conway-Walsh
Staff form action committee in light of agency staff restrictions
STAFF of Belmullet District Hospital and Áras Deirbhle nursing home have formed a committee to maintain current services following a HSE decision not to employ agency staff in the two facilities.
A community meeting took place yesterday evening [Monday] in the Talbot Hotel in Belmullet to address the latest crisis at Belmullet District Hospital, which many believe puts the long-term viability of the hospital into question.
A HSE memorandum dated May 31 detailed changes which will see agency staff no longer engaged in services at both health facilities and three temporary contracts will not be renewed. They have since reversed the decision not to renew their contracts and will look at ‘redeployment opportunities’ for these staff. However, there was no indication they will be deployed back to Belmullet.
A meeting of staff from both facilities took place on Thursday where they formed the Belmullet Hospital Action Committee, comprising of four nursing staff and four support staff members from Belmullet District Hospital and Áras Deirbhle.
In a statement, the committee said they wish to maintain and improve current services at the two locations and are ‘fully committed to the deliverance and maintenance of essential high quality patient care to the community’.
When news of the staffing cuts broke last week, there was condemnation by local representatives who said the decision flew in the face of the government’s commitment to delivering primary care in the community.
“I think part of the reasons behind the HSE’s decision is due to the overspend from the Children’s Hospital but also due to huge wastage in the HSE,” Senator Rose Conway Walsh told The Mayo News.
“There are huge amount of jobs outside the frontline services and there seems to be managers for everything. This is where they need to look at making savings, not with frontline services. It makes a nonsense of the government’s claim they want to deliver primary care when they are making cuts in Belmullet, this will have a major impact on the community.”
Senator Conway-Walsh said she organised last night’s meeting because there was a lot of anger in the community and she wanted to show solidarity with those affected and give the community the opportunity to have their say.
She said in 2010 the community were reassured by the health service that beds would not be cut in the hospital but they were subsequently cut from 40 to 20 beds.
“It left just two respite beds to cover Erris, which is unrealistic. It means that if two families have a family occasion on the same day and they are looking for respite, there is nothing to be done for them,” she said.
Senator Conway-Walsh questioned how 20 beds could be maintained without agency staff and said she was ‘very concerned’ about the hospital’s future.
In a statement, the HSE said they were in the process of implementing agency staffing restrictions in all Community Nursing Units and District Hospitals across the Mayo, Galway and Roscommon.
In relation to restricting agency use in Belmullet, they stated: “This may impact on the number of short stay beds that can be safely staffed in the District Hospital but may be offset by staff who are due to return to work in the next few months. No beds in Áras Dearbhile will be affected.
“The number of beds in Belmullet District Hospital occupied by acute discharges has been monitored over some time and Community Healthcare West is satisfied that it will continue to be able to meet the needs of the Bangor Erris region, and if necessary, by using beds in Ballina District Hospital.”
Fianna Fáil TD, Dara Calleary said the budget cuts to the facilities in Belmullet will ‘completely undermine the services provided and go against the government’s ambitions for health care’.
“The government champion their commitment toward health care in the community. Clearly, despite these ambitions, they do not match them with funding and health care services are failing in the west.
“It is disgraceful that jobs and services would be reduced overnight. Not just this, but the potential delay in treatment or diagnosis must be considered when funding is reassessed and HSE plans for Ballina District Hospital and Swinford District Hospital must be outlined,” concluded Deputy Calleary.
In a letter sent to The Mayo News, a member of the Belmullet community, who did not wish to be named, said there was growing frustration in the community over continued ‘rumours and gossip’ over the possible closure of the hospital.
“Management has supplied virtually no information on the matter and some staff are dealing with their impending job loss with no explanation. It is unfathomable that an area the size of Erris should survive without a hospital, which provides respite and care 365 days a year. Maybe if the people taking these idiotic decisions had to travel the Belmullet to Castlebar road every day, to see a loved family member sick in hospital, they might think twice on the decisions they were making,” the author wrote.
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring stated that he was informed by Community Healthcare Organisation West that agency staff are no longer required at the two facilities.
“I have been informed by Community Healthcare Organisation West that they are currently staffing significantly more beds than are actually in use at Belmullet District Hospital and Áras Deirbhle. On average, 12 short stay beds are in use at any given time. As a result they have informed a number of agency staff that their services will no longer be required,” Minister Ring said, adding that both himself and Cllr Gerry Coyle have been in constant contact with the HSE and they will continue to monitor the situation.