Union warns health service facing “triple threat”
Winter is approaching without an agreed plan to safely staff the health service, the INMO has today warned.
Nurses and midwives on the INMO’s Executive Council met and cautioned that continued cooperation over the course of winter should not be taken for granted, pointing to a “triple threat” to worker safety from understaffing, the winter surge and COVID.
1 in 10 COVID cases have been nurses and midwives, leading to further understaffing due to illness or self-isolation. Yet despite these extra demands, the nursing and midwifery workforce has grown by less than one per cent since 2019.
The INMO Executive is urgently seeking talks to establish how many extra nursing and midwifery posts will be funded over the coming year – particularly in winter.
A 2017 Labour Court decision required the HSE to agree a funded workforce plan for nursing and midwifery each year with the INMO, but this has not occurred.
INMO President and Sligo-based nurse, Martina Harkin-Kelly, said:
“The health service faces a triple threat from understaffing, winter and COVID. The three make for a bruising combination, pushing nurses and midwives to breaking point.
“We are not simply attending work: we are taking serious risks to provide care, often in exceptionally uncomfortable environments.
“The INMO Executive Council today had a very clear message: the HSE must engage with the union on its workforce plans urgently. We cannot go into winter without a plan that’s agreed with frontline workers. Nurses and midwives cannot be taken for granted.”
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:
“Yet another year without a workforce plan would be disastrous for the health service. We have already seen trolley figures steadily increase - this will only worsen as winter bites.
“The HSE needs to set out how and where they will find extra nursing and midwifery staff this winter. That should naturally be done in consultation with the INMO, yet we have still had no engagement, with winter fast approaching.”
Source for nursing and midwifery workforce changes is the most recent (July 2020) HSE staff census (P2): https://www.hse.ie/eng/staff/resources/our-workforce/workforce-reporting/health-service-employment-report-july-2020.pdf
The census reports a large increase in the nursing and midwifery category (+1,551), yet the vast majority of this increase (+1,323) is student nurses and midwives being temporarily reclassified during COVID. Excluding this, the number of nurses and midwives has grown slightly: +228 or 0.59%.