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Migrant Nurses Ireland says CUH racism allegations were not investigated in 'timely manner'

Migrant Nurses Ireland is calling on hospitals to implement mandatory training in the areas of equality, diversity, and inclusion

MIGRANT NURSES IRELAND has said that it is “extremely concerned” that stakeholders appear to have failed to take “appropriate and timely action” in response to allegations that 29 Indian nurses experienced “humiliating and derogatory” behaviour while undertaking training in Cork University Hospital (CUH). 

Nursing regulator the NMBI has said it’s been told by the hospital that it is addressing the issue and has recruited a senior manager with responsibility for the welfare of the nurses.

The Journal reported at the start of October that a complaint about discrimination and racism from an Indian nurse was being looked into by an investigator contracted by CUH – over a year after an initial grievance was lodged. 

Last year, the hospital also received a petition from 29 Indian nurses who claimed that a senior staff member in CUH had directed verbal racial abuse towards them during the adaptation programme, which they had to pass over a 6 to 8 week timeframe in order to become registered as nurses in Ireland. 

This allegation forms part of the CUH investigation into the grievance of the Indian nurse, and that investigation has yet to reach a conclusion on the issue of verbal racial abuse. 

The petition claimed that the group was told that Indian nurses come to Ireland “to get pregnancy benefits”, and that they “do not care if Irish patients die”. It further claimed that a staff member said that Indian nurses “bring rice with them” and don’t spend money here, that they “spread Covid-19″, and that they make bathrooms “dirty”.

A spokesperson for the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) – which regulates nursing and midwifery – said that it is currently engaged with CUH, and that the hospital had given the board assurances that “improvements” have been made to the delivery of its adaptation programme. 

“The provider has recruited a senior manager with responsibility for the welfare of the candidates and the delivery of the adaptation programme, and put in place a candidate feedback survey, and established an oversight and governance group for the programme,” the NMBI said.   

One nurse who spoke to The Journal said that their experience of the adaptation programme left them “mentally drained and depressed”. 

Two nurses who signed the petition did not pass CUH’s adaptation programme. Their failure of the course meant they had to temporarily return to India, which they said impacted them financially. 

The NMBI overturned the hospital’s decision in both cases after the nurses lodged an appeal, and they were allowed to return to Ireland to sit a test which is an alternative to the adaptation programme. They are now working in the Irish health system, but not in CUH. 

A spokesperson for Migrant Nurses Ireland – a nonprofit organisation that helps safeguard the rights of migrant nurses - said they believe the most “concerning” aspect is that despite the complaints submitted it has taken stakeholders far too long to address the issues in question. 

They further said that they are concerned that the alleged mistreatment of migrant nurses may not be limited to one “isolated case within the Irish healthcare system”. 

“Staff are hesitant to report such incidents as they fear facing repercussions,” Somy Thomas of MNI said. 

Investigation ongoing

The Journal understands that the investigation into the claims against the senior staff member in CUH is ongoing. 

CUH has issued a statement saying that it takes the allegations that have been made “very seriously” and that it looks forward to a “prompt outcome to the investigation”. 

It said it would be inappropriate to comment further while the investigation is ongoing. 

No finding of wrongdoing has been made against any staff member. 

MNI is calling for CUH and other hospitals to implement mandatory training in the areas of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion for HSE employees. 

“This is the approach already used in several healthcare systems across the world,” Thomas said. 

“The need for anti-racism training is more relevant due to the glaring fact that almost half of the healthcare professionals in the Irish health system come from other countries,” she added. 

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