Saturday 14 December 2019

Public health nurses in Galway warn services face emergency closure due to staff shortages

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha.

Eilish O’Regan

Public health nurses in parts of Galway have warned they will not be unable to provide treatment for either new mothers or patients who need cancer care in their own homes from Friday due to a staffing crisis.

The public health nurses in Ballinasloe and Portumna have said their services face emergency closure due to the HSE's refusal to fill two-thirds of the posts.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said that both districts typically have six nurses, but are now facing four vacancies - due to maternity leave, resignation and reassignment- which the HSE is refusing to fill.

Local public health nurses have notified the HSE that the service will be forced to shut on Friday unless the vacant posts are filled.

The nurses provide care in the community, patients’ homes, schools and health centres. They are typically trained both as nurses and midwives. The alternative to public health nursing is often admission to hospital.

In a formal warning to management, staff and local management list the patients which the service will no longer be able to accept, including:

  • Oncology/chemotherapy patients;
  • Acute hospital discharges;
  • New mothers, including post-natal care;
  • Child protection/health referrals.

The nurses said many patients in need of wound care, palliative care, and those with disabilities will be referred back to GPs and hospitals.

”No health service can function with only a third of the usual staff. Local management and frontline staff have tried their best to keep the show on the road, but it’s clearly reached a tipping point," said INMO Industrial Relations Officer in Galway Anne Burke.

“Services are closing unnecessarily because of bureaucratic blindness. Senior managers in the HSE and the regional community health organisation need to replace these staff urgently to ensure patients do not suffer.

“Our hospitals are not in a position to take on these extra patients. This morning, there are already 30 patients without beds lining corridors in University Hospital Galway. Patients will not simply go away: they will be driven into already-stretched hospitals and GP services.”

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: "This is an extreme symptom of what is happening across the country. The HSE’s refusal to fill vital, frontline posts is weakening services.

"Cuts have consequences and exceptionally vulnerable patients are being forced to pay the price in Galway. It’s yet another example of the damaging role the HSE’s recruitment freeze is having.”

The HSE has been contacted for comment.

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