INMO Calls on Oireachtas to Take Action on Overcrowding
At a meeting convened at the request of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health will hear how persistent hospital overcrowding is impacting nurses and midwives and patient safety.
At the meeting the INMO will call on the Oireachtas to ensure:
• All nurse staffing must be underpinned by The Framework policy for Safe Nurse Staffing and Skill Mix. The Framework must be funded, underpinned by legislation, and expanded across the health service
• That bed occupancy is reduced to 85% as per the Capacity Report
• That the Government commits to the multiannual funding of Sláintecare
• That there is zero tolerance for overcrowding in our hospitals
• That statutory agencies carry out their roles and make recommendations to the Minister for Health when compelled to by those on the frontline
• Strengthen health and safety legislation to protect nurses and midwives
Speaking ahead of the Committee meeting, INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said:
“We welcome the fact that the Oireachtas has acted so quickly on the INMO’s request for the Health Committee to discuss the stark levels of overcrowding in our hospitals.
“As of March 8th, 21.535 patients have been on trolleys so far this year, a sharp increase of over 170% compared to 2021.
“Our nurses and midwives are under severe pressure; they are dealing with huge numbers of COVID and non-COVID patients presenting at emergency departments coupled with inadequate staffing levels.
“We are swiftly moving back to the bad old days of consistently seeing high numbers of patients on beds, yet we have come so used to these figures that hearing stories of patients waiting on trolleys for over 54 hours.
“We know that if a patient is on a trolley for more than five hours it can have a significant knock-on impact on their health and indeed their mortality. State agencies such as the Department of Health, HIQA and the HSE need to step up to their responsibilities they have here and take decisive action. It is extremely disappointing that the HSE has not prioritised convening the Emergency Department Taskforce despite numerous requests.
“Not only have our members been placed under enormous pressure owing to a global pandemic, but now, the endemic of consistent overcrowding is significantly impacting the mental and physical health of staff. To gain an insight into how staff felt, the INMO surveyed members in University Hospital Galway, University Hospital Limerick, Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore, Cork University Hospital, University Hospital Kerry, Connolly Hospital, St. Vincent's University Hospital, Letterkenny University Hospital.
• In University Hospital Galway, 96.32% stated that based on their professional judgment, the current staffing levels and skill mix in their area were not appropriate for meeting clinical and patient work demands. Of these, 65.75% felt that patient safety was put at risk “often,” "very often" or "always".
• In University Hospital Limerick, 80.64% stated that they always or often felt worn out by the end of the day and 61.29% stated they always or often felt exhausted at the thought of another day at work.
• In Midlands Regional Tullamore, 76.27% stated that their work environment was emotionally exhausting to a high or very high degree.
• In Cork University Hospital, 71.71% stated that they had worked additional UNPAID hours over your contracted hours of employment over the last 12 months.
• In University Hospital Kerry, 89.81% stated that based on their professional judgment the current staffing levels and skill mix in their area were not appropriate for meeting clinical and patient work demands. Of these, 79.78% felt that patient safety was put at risk “often,” "very often" or "always".
• In Connolly, 74.47% stated they felt pressure to work extra shifts.
• In St. Vincent's University Hospital, 65.82% stated that they had considered leaving their current work area due to workplace stress during the last month.
• In Letterkenny University Hospital, 87.04% that they always or often felt worn out by the end of the day and 66.67% that they always or often felt exhausted at the thought of another day at work
“Staff and patients deserve better than the persistent and chronic overcrowding we are seeing in Irish hospitals on a daily basis. Government must take note of the voices from the frontline. They are sounding the alarm, and are pointing to clinical risk, omissions of care, inhumane environments for care provision, long uncomfortable waiting time to be seen and then a longer time to be admitted.
“ED overcrowding was not caused by COVID-19; however, unfortunately, today, it is endemic in our public health system. Winter plans are produced four months after the horse has bolted. Service plans that promise 6 hour wait times are unacceptable. We need a government led and overseen implementation of the agreed reform plan. If the Government doesn't intend to fully fund and implement the reforms, then our members will take action.”