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INMO calls for services at St Vincent's ICU to be 'curtailed until unit is adequately staffed'

Nurses have to use a baby monitor to watch certain patients due to staff shortages, The Journal reported earlier today.

Screenshot 2021-10-04 15.03.34 The nurses provided this photograph of the baby monitor which is used to keep an eye on certain patients

THE IRISH NURSES and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has requested that services within the intensive care unit (ICU) at St Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH) “are curtailed until such a time that the unit is adequately staffed”.

Earlier today The Journal broke the story that ICU nurses at SVUH say they are at “breaking point” due to chronic staff shortages in recent months.

The nurses said they have been forced to use a baby monitor to watch patients in two particular beds as there are not enough staff members to cover every ICU bed.

“We’ve 18 beds; we should have 21 nurses, at least, on every shift. We average about 14 to 16 nurses, so we’re at least five or six short. It’s just chaotic,” one nurse told The Journal.

“It has been relentless, to be honest, since the start of the pandemic. We used to have busy weeks, busy periods, busy winters, now it’s every day. We have had a crazy busy summer. It’s been quite frightening.”

In response to the story, the INMO noted: “On a daily basis the ICU in St Vincent’s University Hospital is running with 30% of its nursing shifts vacant. The hospital continues to operate 18 ICU beds despite pleas from nurses in the hospital to curtail services or divert patients to other hospitals.

“Nurses are often looking after twice as many patients as they should. They simply don’t have enough Nurses to do the job safely. They are constantly worried that patient care is being put at risk.”

When asked for comment on the nurses’ claims, a spokesperson for SVUH told The Journal: “The safety and welfare of patients under the care of St Vincent’s University Hospital is of paramount importance always. St Vincent’s University Hospital rejects absolutely the allegations made concerning patient care in our hospital.

“Management and staff operate to the highest professional standards of medical and nursing care. We provide care for our patients in a safe and secure environment and any allegation or assertion to the contrary will be viewed very seriously by SVUH.

“Management in the hospital are engaging daily with staff from the intensive care team directly to discuss their concerns.”

‘Completely burnt out’

Speaking today, Mary Rose Carroll, the INMO’s Industrial Relations Officer, said: “It is not acceptable that management continue to operate a full service despite the unit only having enough staff to operate 14 beds. Our members are entitled to work in a safe working environment, and patients deserve to be cared for with safe staffing levels.

“The INMO have requested that services within the ICU are curtailed until such a time that the unit is adequately staffed. The hospital, in line with critical care standards, can divert patients to other ICUs in circumstances when there are inadequate and unsafe staffing levels within the unit.”

The INMO’s statement added that the situation in St Vincent’s “is a symptom of the recruitment crisis in our hospital system”.

The group added that nurses who work in ICU need to be given the opportunity to undertake specialist training, adding “this can only be done if more postgraduate places for training are provided”.

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An INMO survey published today noted that nurses and midwives are “completely burnt out”.

“Nurses and midwives have faced an unprecedented increase in workload demands resulting directly or indirectly from the pandemic. Coupled with caring for patients with the virus, witnessing the physical and emotional effects on patients, families and loved ones has taken a psychological toll,” a statement said.

“The vast majority of our members, including those in St Vincent’s University Hospital, are now telling us they’re mentally and emotionally exhausted, and this is going to have an impact on their safety and the safety of their patients.”

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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