Belfast Telegraph

Patients at risk due to HSE recruitment ban, union warns

The embargo was first announced in April.

File picture of nurses from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) (Niall Carson/PA)
File picture of nurses from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) (Niall Carson/PA)

Patients are facing serious risks, delays and service cuts due to a recruitment ban, a leading union has warned.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says it has sent an initial list of vacant nursing and midwifery positions to the HSE, which are not being filled due to an embargo on hiring.

The recruitment and overtime embargo, due to last three months, was first announced in a letter from the deputy director general and chief operations officer of the HSE and circulated across health services in April.

At the time, those involved said the move was due to: “Financial pressure in the system arising from the high levels of recruitment in 2018 and the consequential impact in 2019.”

The letter caused considerable public outcry at a time where waiting lists, staff shortages and hospital over crowding had been flagged as a concern by staff and patients, and amid a number of ongoing staff retention issues and ballots for strike actions taking place.

The unfilled posts flagged by the INMO include: 103 staff midwife roles, plus over 50 temporary posts, including on labour wards, at least 325 permanent staff nurse roles, over 120 temporary nursing posts, unfilled roles in palliative care, emergency departments, care of the elderly and theatre.

As a result of the ban, the union say services across the country have been compromised.

In Wexford, for example, there will be no provision for immunisation from September.

The INMO described the list as “the tip of the iceberg”, as it only contains unfilled posts which union members had raised with the organisation.

Some services are now replacing full-time staff with temporary agency workers.

This is in part due to the recruitment ban, but also due to the recruitment process often taking up to six months.

The INMO has advised the HSE that nursing and midwifery managers must place patient safety ahead of financial “break even” plans.

INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha, said: “The recruitment ban in nursing and midwifery has got to go.

“Patients are being put at extreme risk, with essential services being taken from the most vulnerable.

“Before the ban, we had understaffing and overcrowding.

“Refusing to fill vacant posts is adding fuel to the flames.

“Our members went on strike earlier this year because of understaffing.

“The HSE seems determined to make the problem even worse.

“These figures make a mockery of the claim that frontline services are being protected.

“This approach to cutting costs has been tried before and it has failed before.

“Short staffing drives up costs by delaying care and forcing reliance of expensive agency staff.

“We need the recruitment ban to end, for nurses and midwives to be excluded from it, and for guarantees that this list of posts will be filled immediately.”

PA

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