Belfast Telegraph

'Shortage of nurses' sees union call for urgent talks

By JOANNE SWEENEY

A high-level meeting has been demanded by public sector union Unison to discuss concerns over patient care at Belfast's Musgrave Park Hospital.

As fears over nursing levels were voiced for a second time in eight weeks, a spokeswoman for the union claimed: "All is not right at Musgrave."

The merging of two wards from Monday at Northern Ireland's leading orthopaedic hospital has prompted Unison to call for an urgent meeting between the hospital's senior anaesthetists, nursing manager and nurses' representative.

"A bad decision to close the high dependency unit was taken two years ago and resulted in a lot of nursing expertise working elsewhere in the hospital, or indeed leaving the service," said a union spokeswoman.

"The anaesthetists are not happy. What currently is happening is bad practice.

"There's not enough trained nurses, and elective operations are either being cancelled or reduced, and that's not good for patient care."

Last night, the Royal College of Nursing NI confirmed that it was investigating a complaint concerning patient health raised by one of its members at Musgrave Park.

Some patients undergoing major operations have already been transferred to Belfast City Hospital for post-operative care due to the shortage of trained staff.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust last night confirmed the temporary bed closures and that it no longer had high-dependency beds. But it stressed that the transfer of some patients to Belfast City Hospital was done on "clinical need".

A spokeswoman said: "We will keep (enhanced recovery) beds under review and whilst they may close for a short period of time in the interest of patient safety and due to staff shortage, this operational issue is reviewed on a daily basis."

This latest development comes less than eight weeks since the Belfast Telegraph reported that nine elective operations had been cancelled at the last moment due to a lack of trained nurses to provide post-operative care.

STORY SO FAR

Nine planned operations had to be cancelled at the last moment at Musgrave Park Hospital due to the lack of nurses to provide post-operative care. Concerns were expressed by patients but the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust assured the Belfast Telegraph it was due to a "unusually high seasonal level of absenteeism due to sickness" and that it was a "temporary problem" at the hospital.

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