Nurses vote to take action
By: TCM Editorial
By Vicki Weller
A MASSIVE 86% of nurses at Naas Hospital have voted to take industrial action over lack of staff and conditions at the hospital.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) announced the result of the ballot on Wednesday last and the organisation will be considering the precise nature of the industrial action in the weeks ahead.
Saying that he had anticipated that the vote would be carried, INMO spokesperson Derek Reilly admitted to the Kildare Nationalist that he had been “surprised by the level of anger” shown by the Naas nurses.
Chief among the issues triggering that anger are lack of adequate staffing in the A and E unit; the continued closure of beds at the hospital;the failure to open a new medical assessment unit and the recruitment embargo, in particular the fact that a jobs “freeze” has now been announced, meaning that key posts are being left unfilled.
“A and E at Naas hospital is overcrowded and there are not enough nurses to look after the patients on trollies. The nurses want a ratio of one nurse to six patients, which is applied in Tallaght Hospital, for example,” said Mr Reilly.
He added that 24 beds which remain closed at the hospital “need to be opened” while the new medical assessment unit must be made operational.
“Around half a million euro was spend on providing this unit which is fully fitted out but has never been used,” he said. The unit is designed to take patients on direct referral from their GPs, enabling various tests to be carried out before the patient is either sent home or admitted to the hospital.
“This would take considerable pressure off the casualty unit and would be more efficient but there are no staff to run it. It is unbelievable that half a million euro can be spent on a facility which is just left there. No wonder people feel that this is where their money is going!”
Mr Reilly noted that the recruitment embargo and more specifically the recently announced jobs freeze were having a detrimental effect on patients and on nurses’ morale.
“We understand that in one situation, a person was interviewed for the post of clinical nurse manager and told they would be offered the job, but then received a text saying that the post had been frozen,” he said, noting that text message was apparently sent by the HSE’s central management even before the management at the hospital itself had been informed.
“This shows a lack of respect for everyone involved, apart from the fact that a post like that of clinical nurse manager is extremely important. The HSE is saying that only critical posts will be filled, yet a post like this is frozen, while it seems administrative posts continue to be advertised by the HSE.”
The INMO spokesperson stated that following the 86% vote in favour of industrial action, the organisation will meet with management again in the coming weeks and will also be lobbying public representatives.
“We will not be engaging in all-out strike but the nurses in Naas are very anxious that their protest will be effective. The aim will be to take action in such a way as to have maximum impact on the HSE itself, without having any serious impact on patients,” Mr Reilly concluded.
In response to queries from the Kildare Nationalist, a HSE spokesperson stated: “Naas General Hospital is continuing to work towards establishing a medical assessment unit which was piloted at the hospital last year.”
In relation to staff recruitment, the spokesperson added: “The moratorium on recruitment and promotions within the public service remains in place. Delegated and non-delegated sanctioned posts continued to be filled in accordance with the provisions set out in the moratorium.
“However, a recent decision to place a pause on recruitment activity has been put in place as a result of the financial control on payroll within budget.” She noted that “exemptions to this pause are currently being considered”.
On the issue of texting job applicants, she said: “The HSE national recruitment service, as part of its communication process with candidates, does on occasion, utilise the texting facility to allow for efficient/urgent contact with the candidate concerned.”
On the continued advertising of administrative posts, she said: “Such posts are advertised within the HSE from time to time to respond to the ongoing reconfiguration of services. Such posts are filled on a re-deployment/re-assignment/ grade to grade basis, following an ‘expressions of interest’ process. These posts are not open to the general public and therefore there is no consequential increase in clerical/ management administrative staff numbers.”