There were further job cuts at Mayo General Hospital this week with unconfirmed reports that up to 15 nurses will not have their contracts renewed and hours have been cut. In an effort to cut costs before the end of the year, to prevent an estimated €2 million overspend, some wards will also be reduced to a five-day week. Staff morale is reportedly very low at the hospital and workers say these budgetary decisions have no regard for patient care.
Support staff such as nurses aids, domestics and porters are being tightly managed and this is going to be further compounded over the coming weeks and months, according to union representatives.
Staff at the hospital were called into a meeting on Wednesday afternoon to be updated on events at the hospital, while another meeting has been scheduled for lunchtime today (Friday ).
Mr Seamus Bourke, part time Siptu branch organiser for Mayo Health Services, has confirmed that temporary contract hours have been reduced and others have lost work. He said the broad thrust of the issue is that patient care is being compromised.
“The way they allocate the budget for the hospital is they tag on a percentage of what it cost to run the hospital the previous year. This is a blunt instrument and an appalling way of determining the budget. It doesn’t reflect increases in staff costs or increases in patient numbers. It leaves local management in an extremely difficult position,” explained Mr Bourke.
He explained that the clinical decision unit, a brand new unit doing excellent work and which has been operating for the past six months, will be reduced from a seven-day ward to a five-day ward. Mr Bourke said this ward had taken a lot of pressure off reducing the number of people having to remain on trolleys. However, he said this decision will be reviewed in October and it is expected that the ward will be returned to a seven-day unit. Also the orthopaedic and gynae wards have been reduced to five-day wards.
“This is such an awful attempt at an apology to say they will minimise the effect on patients. They don’t care. They are told to minimise the budget and they are looking around for ways to do it,” said Mr Bourke.
The HSE have confirmed that Mayo General Hospital’s budget for 2008 is approximately €84.5 million.
At the present time, the hospital is forecasting a €2 million overspend over its approved expenditure limits for the year. A range of measures has been in place since the beginning of the year to help maintain spending levels within approved limits. It is expected that a number of additional measures will be implemented between now and year end to achieve an overall break-even position, which is a legal requirement of the hospital.
Castlebar Town Councillor and Siptu worker Michael Kilcoyne described the latest cutbacks as “deplorable”. “I have for the last six weeks being saying the HSE are reducing their budget in Mayo by €1 million. This has been denied by the HSE. I was correct. They are also cutting back on the home help package. If you have to get sick in Ireland today get sick in January or February because after that the budget is gone.”
Noreen Muldoon of the Irish Nurses’ Organisation said the organisation are extremely concerned about any service being reduced from seven days to five days and the impact on patient care.
Ms Muldoon also confirmed that nurses were sent home mid-shift from Mayo General Hospital last weekend and others have been phoned before their shifts are due to commence and told not to come to work.
The INO representative has said this is totally unacceptable and should be managed before staff present for work or have completed half their shift.
Deputy John O’Mahony described the measures to reduce costs as a “cutback” which he said will affect front-line services. “It is inevitable that there will be impacts on patient services,” he added.
“I’m not laying the blame at the door of the local management in the hospital; they are merely implementing government policy but again this is a perfect example of a system putting targets ahead of patients’ lives.”