INMO members at Mayo University Hospital protested outside the hospital on Monday last to highlight excessive workloads and staffing pressure.
The INMO has stated that staff in the hospital are unable to take adequate breaks or use their annual leave due to their excessive workloads, and that despite formal grievances raised by staff and union escalation to the Saolta hospital group, no improvements have been made to working conditions.
The union is calling for a robust set of proposals to be urgently provided by the Saolta group and hospital management in order to bring the issue to conciliation at the Workplace Relations Commission.
INMO Industrial Relations Officer for Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, Anne Burke said: "This is simply a matter of safety. Admissions to hospital are creeping up alongside Covid numbers and it’s not possible to keep staff and patients safe in these conditions.
"Staff in the hospital cannot keep up this relentless pace without some sort of relief, and we are going to see large numbers leaving nursing over the coming months if management don’t take steps to lighten the load.
"It’s beyond time for a workable winter plan for the entire health service as well as robust measures in hard-hit acute hospitals. We can’t afford to have burnout and exhaustion across the workforce as we head into a very dangerous and busy winter."
Responding to the protest, Saolta University Health Care Group issued a statement saying: "Mayo University Hospital (MUH ) and the wider Saolta University Health Care Group regret the ongoing pressures facing nursing staff across our sites.
"Nursing staffing levels at MUH and at all our hospitals, and the improvement of these levels, are a priority for management within the hospital and within the Saolta Group. The challenges facing the hospital in relation to nurse recruitment are a national and international issue which is not specific to MUH. The hospital shares the frustrations of nursing staff who continue to provide excellent care in very trying circumstances.
"The Emergency Department at Mayo University Hospital, similar to other EDs across the country, has been extremely busy with higher than average numbers of people attending over the past couple of months, which has resulted in high numbers on trolleys. In addition to this, a surge in Covid admissions has impacted on the capacity to deal with both Covid and non-Covid admissions. Every effort is made to stream patients through the services as efficiently as possible but with high numbers of attendances, this remains challenging.
"The Saolta Group is keenly aware of the ongoing pressure on all healthcare workers since the start of the pandemic and is taking a number of steps to address and alleviate these pressures.
"A significant overseas nursing recruitment campaign is being actively progressed by the Saolta Group with a strong intention to have additional resources coming into the service within the next three months. This includes the largest overseas recruitment campaign in the history of the Saolta group which encompasses 300 nursing staff. Interviews are ongoing at present with an expected arrival date of January 2022 for the first tranche; 55 of these are approved for MUH with 29 scheduled to arrive in January and 26 in March.
"In addition to this, local recruitment is ongoing which includes 30 nursing staff who are approved for the services and will be joining in the next two months. This will include eight experienced critical care staff and five senior nursing posts.
"The hospital has also increased their Health Care Assistant staff by 70pc and there has been other appointments to other grades.
"Recent actions taken to address the staffing deficits at MUH include: running 10 separate nursing recruitment campaigns (for staff nurses, ICU and theatre nurses ) in the past eight months; increasing clerical support on the wards; and diverting staff resources as required. In addition, the hospital limits and adjusts the levels of planned admissions relative to staffing numbers on a continual basis.
"As part of ongoing efforts to deal with the significant pressures facing staff, both MUH and Saolta continue to engage with the INMO. We hope the conciliation talks with the body under the auspices of the Workplace Commission Conciliation Service which will take place this week will be productive."