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HSE recruitment moratorium 'destructive and irrational', say health staff

That’s according to members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, who will hold their 93rd annual conference this week. The theme for the event this year is ‘Safe care – safe practice – no compromise’.

Sheila Dickson, President INMO
Sheila Dickson, President INMO
Image: Mark Stedman, Photocall Ireland

THE RECRUITMENT MORATORIUM in the health services has been described as ‘destructive and irrational’ by the president of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Sheila Dickson made the comments on the eve of the INMO’s 93rd annual conference, which will take place at the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney this week. The theme of the conference is: ‘Safe care – safe practice – no compromise’.

The recruitment moratorium remains a most destructive, and irrational, tool which has, is and will continue to do huge damage to frontline public health services.  As we all know nursing and midwifery lost nearly 2,000 posts in the past year, and most of them left in the weeks leading up to the end of the grace period on February 29th.  Since then nurses and midwives, and other health service colleagues, have worked miracles as they have sought to maintain health care, in the frontline, in the face of a massive depletion of resources within a short period of time.

The members are expected to speak at the conference about the realities facing them as they strive to maintain safe care with reduced resources despite ever-increasing demand for services, the INMO said.

It added that the number of nursing/midwifery staff has fallen by 5,000 since 2007, with 2,000 staff leaving in the past year.

Because of this drop in staff numbers, a motion will be put forward at the conference to obtain new standards from HIQA, recommending the minimum requirements with regard to staffing levels.

Another motion up for debate calls on the HSE to engage independent experts to complete staffing reviews of all maternity units in the state and the findings of these reviews to be fully implemented immediately.

Further motions will include:

  • A call for the Minister for Health to issue a revised organisational plan for the Irish Health Service
  • A national nurse/midwife/patient ratio
  • Replacement of all vacant nursing/midwifery posts
  • Emergency Department crisis/whole hospital overcrowding
  • The undermining of the role of nurse/midwife managers
  • The development of Primary Care
  • Cuts to community services
  • Care of the older person

Delegates will also call on HIQA to provide a confidential hotline to facilitate nursing and midwifery staff to report their concerns in relation to unsafe nurse/patient ratios, patient acuity and resulting unsafe standards of care. Another motion calls for the organisation to undertake a study examining the effects on the mental health of staff, which should include an action plan.

Dr James Reilly TD, Minister for Health will address the conference on Friday, followed by the Presidential Address from INMO President Dickson. The conference will also be addressed by Tony O’Brien, Director of the Special Delivery Unit in the Department of Health, and by Norah Casey, CEO of Harmonia Ltd, member of the National Paediatric Development Board and Dragon’s Den panellist and a registered nurse.

As part of the INMO’s safe practice campaign, a number of new measures will be launched:

  • A staffing dependency tool to be used by members to determine the number of staff required to provide safe care;
  • A guidance tool for members as to how they should deal with inadequate staffing and inappropriate skill mix ratios;
  • A ward staffing census which will allow the INMO measure the staffing levels which exists, in 300 wards across the country, on that day;
  • And an information bulletin on the research, undertaken worldwide, on staffing levels and the positive benefits, for patients, arising from the presence of registered nurses/ midwives.

INMO General Secretary, Liam Doran said the conference is taking place “at the most critical time ever faced by the Irish public health service”.

He added:

The conference theme of ‘Safe Care – Safe Practice – No Compromise’, aptly sums up the approach of the organisation at this time on behalf of its members facing intolerable workloads on the frontline. It is quite clear, from the conference agenda, that the key concern of nurses and midwives is the critical issue of providing safe care to patients/clients.

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