A HOSPITAL ON Dublin’s northside has seen a quarter of its staff leave in just two years.
Clontarf Hospital, a voluntary orthopaedic ‘step down’ institution, has seen some 41 of an estimated 160 staff exit between 2016 and 2017.
The hospital has also been subject to a number of industrial relations disputes at both the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court in recent times.
At least one former senior member of staff is also involved in a litigation with the hospital in the High Court at present.
It’s believed that a large number of the staff leaving were employees with long service at working at senior management level. It’s also understood that the staff who have left have been replaced.
Clontarf is part-funded by the HSE, but is not operated on a day-to-day basis by the executive.
Primarily an orthopaedic hospital, it offers ‘step-down’ services (eg convalescence from surgical procedures and rehabilitation) from nearby Beaumont Hospital and the Mater Hospital, together with Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital. It also operates a non-urgent x-ray department.
In recent years, the hospital has also served as a rehab facility for elderly patients.
In 2013, the hospital saw two staff leave its employment. In 2014, the figure was five. That jumped to 14 in 2015, 16 in 2016, and 25 in 2017, a nigh-on 13-fold jump in just four years.
The hospital detailed its levels of staff attrition (ie the numbers of people leaving employment) in a written response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín.
A relatively broad interpretation of staff-patient ratios was detailed in reply to that question, ie no split by specific medical discipline was detailed. It’s unclear if these ratios also include non-medical staff, eg porters, clerical staff.
As at end 2017, per those figures, the ratio is 1:1.41 which equates to about 105 staff for 148 patient beds.
By contrast, in 2013 the figure was 1:1.27, or roughly 101 staff for 128 patient beds.
The overall number of staff at the hospital is understood to be in the region of 160.
“It’s clear that bed-numbers-per-staff-member have significantly increased between 2013 and 2017. This has to have materially increased the workload of staff,” said Tóibín of the situation at the hospital.
“If the radical increase in staff exiting the hospital has not lead to the HSE and the Minister engaging in closer scrutiny of the staff arrangements at the hospital there is a serious difficulty,” he said, adding that it “isn’t possible” to see how such increased attrition “would reflect normal operation”.
It’s believed that in recent times senior staff have raised the perceived issue of staff-patient ratios with management at the hospital, particularly with regard to the care of vulnerable elderly patients.
One such situation ended up at the Workplace Relations Commission after a senior clinical nursing manager was transferred from their ward after raising concerns over a perceived lack of adequate resources and procedures being in place in order to deal with the medical needs of the elderly patients that had recently come under that ward’s remit.
That manager, who took the case in protest at their transfer and who no longer works at the hospital, received a cash award from the WRC in compensation for their experience. The award was subsequently reduced in size by the Labour Court.
The manager was not restored to their previous ward, nor was an apology delivered.
“CHO (Community Healthcare Organisation) Dublin North City and County has regular performance meetings with management from Clontarf Hospital and is satisfied that there are sufficient staff employed to provide safe care,” the HSE said in response to Tóibín’s parliamentary question.
A number of positions at the hospital are currently being advertised on job sites, including openings for staff nurses, an assistant director of nursing, bed manager, and clinical practice support nurse.
The hospital currently has in the region of 160 beds, with overall staffing levels understood to be on a similar level.
TheJournal.ie submitted a detailed request for comment to the hospital regarding staff levels at Clontarf, and querying why the rate of staff attrition has increased to such an extent in such a short period of time.
Questions were also put to the institution regarding staff-patient ratios as they currently stand, with particular emphasis placed on the breakdown by individual medical discipline, eg doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists.
A response had not been received at the time of publication.