A draft HSE national plan which proposes “severe” staff cutbacks to the public health service is “insulting to hardworking staff” according to a local nursing union official.
Noreen Muldoon, the Irish Nurses’ Organisation’s industrial relations officer in the west, warns that the implementation of the draft circular on recruitment and promotions in the health service would be harmful to patient care.
She says it would reduce the availability of frontline services, cut essential frontline staff and would seriously impinge on the delivery of a safe service to patients.
“Obviously anything that affects patient care is totally unacceptable. You can’t possibly provide a service unless you have the tools, including adequate resources.”
Referring to the draft document which was drawn up in the context of the Government’s freeze on public service recruitment, she acknowledges it is a draft. However, she is concerned by its suggestions, she stresses.
“It suggests there is no replacement of temporary staff or those who retire. If you have a nurse manager who is on sick leave, they would normally be replaced. The position is they won’t now pay someone to act in their position. There are huge repercussions from all of this.
“Take UHG for instance. You could have a very busy ward where a nurse has left to emigrate and a temporary nurse has not had their contract renewed and someone is going on maternity leave. There could be others out sick. At least three people out of that complement of staff would not be replaced. You can’t possibly provide a safe service to patients.”
Ms Muldoon says while she recognises the severe financial challenges facing the Government managing public finances her union would not accept the introduction of staffing cuts in frontline services. She cautions these will inevitably cause unsafe practice and a reduction in the quality of care available to patients.
While the HSE has agreed to re-draft the circular and a further meeting will take place between the HSE and health service unions next week, she says she is still “extremely concerned”.
“On the ground staff are not being replaced. People who have accepted positions, their appointments are not being processed. They are being left on hold. The [Government’s] moratorium on recruitment is there until 2010.
“We all understand budgetary constraints but at the end of the day every patient deserves a proper, adequate and safe service. Nurses are at the frontline, they work so hard, it’s unreal. There have been major changes in the health service, a lot of additional work has been foisted on them. Really and truly they give an excellent service yet they are being asked to provide a lesser one. This would be alien to them.