Monday, 15th August 2016
As we are all aware the staffing levels, and the recruitment/retention of nurses and midwives is an ongoing critical issues for members in all areas of the health service.
Against this background, and consistent with our ongoing efforts on this issue, the INMO met again, with senior HSE management late last week. The following is a summary of the issues discussed and the actions agreed:
1. Graduating Nurses/Midwives
The HSE reaffirmed their absolute commitment to offering all students, graduating this year (within the next four weeks), permanent posts. It was acknowledged that difficulties have emerged, at local level, and the HSE confirmed they are taking urgent steps to address this matter.
In response the INMO highlighted the reality that a number of managements, at local level (including Letterkenny, Sligo, Castlebar, Ballinasloe, Galway, Limerick, Tralee, Cork and South Tipperary), had only offered short term contracts in recent days. We also highlighted the reality that while the HSE was sending out conflicting messages these young professionals are being offered, and are accepting, posts elsewhere i.e. the UK. The HSE stressed it was actively working to ensure a consistent approach, on this matter, and that we would see evidence of this in the next week/two weeks. Members, particularly our graduating members, are asked to keep the INMO advised of all offers of work, made to them, so that we can ensure all employers are offering permanent posts.
2. Filling of Vacant Posts (Staff Nurse/Midwife/Community RGNs/PHNs)
The INMO sought clarity and confirmation, that Directors of Nursing/Midwifery/ Public Health would be empowered to fill, without requiring sanction/ authorisation from any other senior manager or employment control group (at local hospital/group/CHO level), at a minimum, entry grade posts i.e. Staff Nurse/Midwife/Community RGN/PHN.
We stressed that current restrictions, and bureaucratic processes, were constraining Directors, who would always be accountable for their decisions, leading to avoidable staff shortages and increased clinical risk.
After discussion it was agreed that this approach had merit and potential and the management side would further review it and revert to us very quickly.
We will be pursuing this matter, seeking early progress on this issue, during this week.
3. Confusion surrounding Recruitment across the Service
The HSE confirmed that, arising from the allocation of the additional €500 million by government in recent weeks, there should be no delays in the filling of frontline posts. It was confirmed that all Divisions had now received confirmation of additional allocation, from within the €500 million, and a note was circulated regarding same.
Against this background we sought confirmation as to what were the implications, for the filling of nursing/midwifery grades, at individual employment level following allocation of this money. Following discussion on this issue, which for our part still remains somewhat confused, it was confirmed that all posts, existing at the beginning of the year, could now be filled in order to maintain existing levels of service. However it was confirmed that this additional funding for primary care was not allocated to fund any frontline nursing posts. We sought the net effect of the funding from an employment improvement basis by Hospital Group/CHO and the HSE have agreed to furnish this to us.
In the interim local representatives/members are asked to remain very vigilant with regard to the filling of frontline posts that fall vacant. Please contact the Organisation immediately if you believe any frontline post is being left unfilled due to the inaction of local management.
4. Overseas Recruitment
Recognising the severe difficulties, with regard to recruitment of nurses/ midwives at this time, the INMO sought a review of the current incentives applying to same. It was agreed that the “Bring Them Home Campaign” had failed in its objective and needed to be rebranded and relaunched. It was further agreed that a small working group would be established to examine this matter further. The INMO confirmed that the Liam Doran, as General Secretary, would be the INMO nominee on this group.
We await the names of the HSE’s nominees and an early date and time for the first meeting. At this time we are suggesting the Department of Health should also be asked to sit on this small group. In the coming days the INMO will, through all lines of communication open to us, seek to engage with colleagues, working in the UK and overseas. This will be in an effort to establish what additional/improved incentives are necessary to ensure a much better response to any international recruitment campaign over the next weeks and months.
5. Overall Manpower Plan
In the context of the issues being discussed, and further to point 4 above, the INMO sought immediate engagement on formulating an agreed manpower plan, with regard to nursing/midwifery recruitment. Such a plan must not only deal with immediate issues but also ensure that, for example, we would be offering 2017 graduates permanent posts in January 2017.
The HSE agreed to positively consider this proposal and will revert to us shortly.
6. Short Staffing - Protecting Practice
At this stage in the meeting the INMO placed on record that in the absence of very significant improvements, in staffing levels in all services, the Organisation will seek, in the coming weeks, curtailment of services. We repeatedly stressed that our members will not continue to work in an unsafe environment, for both patients and themselves, and that staffing levels must be improved immediately.
We reminded the management team that we currently have members, working to rule i.e. Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda while other members are currently balloting, in some locations, in protest at the critical shortage of nursing/midwifery staff. We stressed that this is an absolute priority issue, for the INMO as, currently, members, across the service, are being forced to work short, every day, with its negative impact on standards of care and safe practice.
7. Immediate Next Steps
As indicated above there is to be further contact, on these various issues, in the coming days. In addition the group will meet again, to review overall progress, at 9.00 a.m., in the Workplace Relations Commission, on Friday, 2nd September 2016 (ahead of the next WRC review of the national ED Agreement which is scheduled to commence at 10.30 a.m. that morning).
Thank you of your attention to this update. Please circulate it and bring it to the attention of all members in your workplace.