HEALTH Minister Stephen Donnelly has met with senior staff at University Hospital Kerry (UHK) to discuss a range of issues – including staffing and a lack of resources – that are affecting the hospital.
The Minister met with the UHK consultants group during a visit to Kerry on Friday, which saw him open the new ‘home from home’ birthing service in the hospital’s maternity unit.
He also visited St Teresa’s National School in Kilflynn to see the Active Schools programme in action and toured both the integrated care for older persons hub and Baile Mhuire day-care centre in Balloonagh in Tralee.
Minister Donnelly’s meeting with UHK consultants came almost nine months after the consultants group wrote to the CEO of the HSE South/South West Hospital Group, Gerry O’Dwyer to express their serious concerns about the growing “crisis” at the hospital.
These concerns included severe staff and bed shortages; the cancellation of elective surgeries; and the lack of resources and support available to consultant services.
Friday’s meeting was described as “forthright”, with one party familiar with the discussions saying that the consultants group “didn’t hold back” when addressing the issues at the hospital.
Speaking to The Kerryman after the meeting, Minister Donnelly acknowledged that there are areas of serious difficulty at UHK but insisted steps are being taken to address them.
He pointed to the fact that the number of consultants employed at UHK has increased from 33 to 53, which he described as “A huge increase”.
He added that work is also underway to fill nine vacant nursing positions and to hire 16 midwives, 14 consultants, and 11 non-consultant hospital doctors.
Minister Donnelly strongly refuted a previous claim made by SIPTU that there are 100 vacant nursing positions at UHK saying this was “absolutely not” the case.
However, he did acknowledge that staffing issues have had a significant knock-on effect on waiting times and trolley numbers at the hospital.
The Minister, who praised the “enormous passion” of all staff at UHK, said filling these positions – along with other improvements, such as planned changes to improve use of space and patient flow through the Emergency Department – will have a major positive impact on services at the hospital.
These, he said, could include a significant increase in the number of surgeries carried out on a daily basis at UHK.