Pyschiatric nurses from Galway and Roscommon will gather in the Clayton Hotel, Galway, tonight to consider the ongoing dispute over staffing and patient safety at the acute psychiatric unit in UHG.
The dispute has already led to a lunchtime protest by staff at the hospital last week. Noel Giblin, national secretary of the PNA, stated that the organisation was “overwhelmed by the level of support we received”, from off-duty nurses, non-nursing medical professionals, the public, and local politicians.
The PNA will ballot its members on industrial action in response to concerns for patient care and understaffing at the 45 bed unit. Thursday’s meeting will also consider further action to be taken by nurses in support of their demands.
The closure of the 22 bed acute admission unit at St Brigid’s Psychiatric Unit in Ballinasloe has resulted in an increased demand for services at UHG’s psychiatric unit, causing admission rates to rise to higher than ever levels without a rise in the number of staff.
PNA national secretary Giblin said there was deep anger among members across Galway and Roscommon at the Government’s response to the situation in UHG. Giblin cited patient safety as a serious issue that was being affected by serious understaffing. He pointed out that the decrease in nurses’ one-to-one sessions with the unit’s patients, some of whom were suicidal, was causing serious strain. He also noted that 50 per cent of the unit’s patients have been checked in against their will, with 12 per cent being the national average, causing staff to be “fearful of assault” as well as the safety of other patients.
Giblin put these problems down to repeated broken promises from the HSE and the Government, and “management’s intractable ability to provide secure levels of staffing.”
“Nurses who have co-operated in good faith with a range of changes and cuts in services in the Galway/Roscommon region over the past 18 months have been left in a situation where there have been repeated breaches of a staffing plan that was agreed with UHG management and they now cannot provide proper care for patients. ”
Giblin stated that the PNA was seriously considering industrial action, and its meeting tonight would gauge what action could be taken should strike action be decided.