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Hospital is ‘grossly unsafe’ – INMO

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Pic: ©The Mayo News

Staffing levels ‘leading to incidents of missed care and delayed care’


Michael Gallagher

A number of nurses in Mayo University Hospital say they can no longer stand over the quality of care being given to patients.
That was the stark and frightening message delivered to Saolta in a grievance letter seen by The Mayo News.
The nurses, who are members of the Irish Nurse and Midwives Organisation (INMO), outlined their fears at a formal meeting with hospital management in May. However, they have since grown frustrated at what they believe is a lack of progress.
An excerpt from the letter reads: “In our professional opinion, the redeployment of staff is resulting in grossly unsafe staffing levels, which is leading to incidents of missed care and delayed care for which we can no longer stand over as Nurses.”
No meetings between the parties have taken place since May, though the nurses pushed for talks in June and July. Saolta offered a meeting last week, only to run into problems with reps on holidays.
The INMO has outlined a number of critical points in its grievance, which include staffing levels, working shifts without relief for breaks and members leaving their jobs due to the difficult working conditions.

A selection of the INMO grievances includes:

  • Ratio of one nurse to 18 patients frequently
  • Breaches in the OWTA (Organisation of Working Time Act) due to staffing shortages
  • Unable to avail of rest periods during shifts and regularly finishing work one hour after scheduled finishing time due to lack of staff
  • Lack of porters to support nurses with patient transfer issues and general support tasks
  • Highly qualified staff leaving due to working conditions
  • Fire hazards due to overcrowding of equipment in the main hallways
  • Health Care Assistants asked to substitute for a nurse, raising huge patient safety concerns and increasing stress to staff
  • High turn-over of staff and managers leading to a reduced skill mix and placing significant demands on staff
  • Staff who request to reduce their contracted hours for greater work-life balance being refused as a result of short staffing
  • Very poor staff induction and support for new staff members
  • Staff told they are not managing their time efficiently when they look for holidays worked up as time-owing-in-lieu when they had to work because there was no other staff available

Of particular concern is the 1:18 ratio for nurses. This should be 1:7, meaning the nurses at MUH are caring for nearly three times as many patients as they should be.

Frustration
Ms Anne Burke of the INMO said nothing has been done in recent months to increase staffing levels in the wards, which has led to great frustration. She also maintains that the three district hospitals in Mayo are not being used to take the pressure off Castlebar.
“The step-down facility at Sacred Heart Hospital Castlebar, which is under the governance of MUH, was established by redeployment of staff from several wards in the hospital.
“There are three district hospitals in Mayo which could take these patients, but they remain under-utilised, and this is very hard to understand. Beds in Belmullet District Hospital have been reduced from 20 to 12 when they could be taking the overspill from Castlebar.”
Saolta has acknowledged the need to raise staffing levels in MUH and says it is actively seeking staff at home and overseas.