Thursday 23 November 2017

'We used to be as bad as Ireland, but have completely altered our A&E'

Nurses Maria Hernandez (pictured) and Lynn Everett have told of their differing experiences Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Nurses Maria Hernandez (pictured) and Lynn Everett have told of their differing experiences Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Patients lying on trollies in the corridors. Overworked nurses. Spiralling waiting lists. Rising stress levels and frustration.

Up until recently, the health system in New Zealand was in the same boat as Ireland, remembers Lynn Everett from Co Offaly, living in Auckland for the past 20 years and a clinical charge nurse at Auckland City Hospital.

Lynn Everett
Lynn Everett

Everything changed in 2009 when they "threw money at it" and authorities brought in new standards modelled on the UK's ideal NHS guidelines whereby no patient should be waiting longer than six hours for treatment.

It worked - helped largely by the opening of admission and planning units which handle all patients admitted for short stays to treat ailments such as cellulitis, asthma attacks and pneumonia.

"Ireland needs some of these units to take the pressure off," said Ms Everett.

With a similar population to Ireland size-wise, she admits she constantly wonders why, instead of trying to 'reinvent the wheel', the Irish authorities don't take a look at what's happening down under.

"It's very nurse driven here. Doctors do as they're told and they involve us in everything. You feel very involved and very needed. You put out your hand and you have the equipment you need," she said.

"I'll never come home. It's a much better quality of life here. I enjoy my job."

Her experience is a world away from the daily life of a 31-year-old Donegal nurse working in one of Dublin's busiest teaching hospitals and who doesn't wish to be named. Some days, she admits, she feels the stress rising the moment she walks in the door of the hospital and sees "all the people lying around".

"It's absolutely heartbreaking to see the suffering. Where I work, I see patients suffering all the time. It's so hard and so demoralising," she said.

She went into nursing because her father was severely ill when she was six years old and the experience stayed with her.

"I wanted to help people," she said. "And I still love my job but it's getting harder and harder."

Even walking out the door at the end of a harrowing shift is tough because she feels she is leaving her colleagues "in the lurch".

"You've a heavy heart leaving because you know they're going to have a rough night."

Can she see herself doing the same job into her 50s or 60s if nothing changes?

"Janey Mac, no way," she laughed.

Filipino nurse Maria Hernandez (42) arrived in Ireland during the boom and liked it here. She found the Irish people friendly and life was good - but things have drastically deteriorated.

"It's quite sad," she said.

On one particular day, she found herself simultaneously feeding 12 patients. "Yes it's a choking hazard but patients have to be fed," she said.

Ms Hernandez says she enjoys nursing - or would do if she was allowed to do it correctly, rather than being forced to take care of 10 patients when she should be nursing six or "maximum eight" patients.

Many of her peers who arrived at the same time as she did have left long ago for better lives in America.

Ms Hernandez thinks she will have to go too if the industrial action doesn't bring about the change urgently needed.

"My patients make me happy - but this is when we're not pressured. Normally, we can't even have a proper conversation unless it's the middle of the night."

Irish Independent

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