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'Not acceptable' that people are dying due to overcrowding, says INMO

The former head of the HSE also stated today that overcrowding has become a permanent feature of the healthcare system.

THE IRISH NURSES and Midwives Organisation (INMO) will begin consulting with its members next week on possible industrial action, the union’s general secretary said.

Phil Ní Sheaghda told RTÉ’s This Week programme that the INMO held an emergency meeting on Friday in response to the current overcrowding crisis in hospitals

On Friday the INMO recorded 535 patients on trolleys in Irish hospitals, down from a record high of over 930 on Tuesday.

“It is simply not acceptable that every single year around this time we have this crisis because the the effects of the crisis for patients actually is that they’re dying unnecessarily,” Ní Sheaghga said.

“Now, if that isn’t a stark enough issue to get all government action, we don’t know what is.”

Another issue of concern for the INMO is the amount of nurses being assaulted at work as an average of 11 members of the union are assaulted each day, Ní Sheaghda said.

“We have a trade dispute with the employer, which is their inability to keep our members safe while they’re at work. We know, for example, that we’re experiencing 11 assaults today, and that’s an underreporting of assaults against nurses.”

“Of course, this will also affect the numbers of people who are working as nurses and midwives who will stay working in the Irish Public Health Service. That’s a huge problem, because we need to make sure they stay.”

Ní Sheaghda added that the overcrowding in hospitals was partially due to a lack of longterm care beds, which has a ripple effect on other areas of the HSE.

“We made a decision quite a number of years ago to privatize our long term care. That’s a huge problem. 82% of all of our long term care is now private profit. We believe that was the wrong decision that needs to be reversed.”

“We’ll see tomorrow, whether discharges have increased because that will obviously be the measure of whether the HSE’s plan over the last week has any measure of success.”

“What we say to patients is we stand with them, we stand with them every day of the week, every night of the week, our members are on duty 24/7. We do not accept the conditions under which we’re providing care to them,” Ní Sheaghda concluded.

Earlier this week SIPTU called for an extra 2,000 paramedic staff along with 120 new ambulances to provide the level of service now needed to cope with demand on the healthcare service.

The former director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, appeared on This Week, stating that since 2012 there’s been a deficit of 900 hospital consultants.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you put in, if you don’t create the context in which the capacity in the system matches the needs of the population – beds, doctors, nurses, other health care professionals – then the system cannot function effectively,” he said.

When asked about the predictability of hospital overcrowding crises each year and the state’s failure to intervene before it happens, he stated:

“It’s not so much an annual event now as a permanent situation, it’s true that we have the worst situation annually in the first few weeks of January.

“But there is a reality that a high level of trolley waiting as well as waiting lists on our permanent feature of the system. And so it’s not just about fixing it with short term motors in January, it’s about a fundamental change.”

O’Brien also commented on the government’s plan to utilise private healthcare beds to take the strain from the HSE.

“There is a reality that not all beds in the private hospital system are suitable for inpatient stays because part of the efficiency model in private hospitals is a lot of day service beds,” he explained.

“As much utilization needs to be available. But I have a slightly cynical reaction when I hear any minister going through the standardized talking points in a way that’s simply designed to deflect the attention away from the government.”

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