Staff and student nurses at the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise have had to work while vacancies have not been filled say their union the INMO
More than 80 nursing posts are vacant at the three main hospitals used by people living in Kildare with around 25 positions not filled for various reasons at Naas hospital, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
They say that the current level of vacancies is: Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore - approx. 40; Naas General Hospital - approx. 25; Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise - approx. 20 (this does not include the maternity unit). The hospitals are all part of the Dublin Midlands hospital group.
The INMO said nursing vacancy figures can arise for a number for a combination of factors. This can be unfilled vacancies, uncovered maternity leave, long-term sick leave. Covid-19 is also contributing. Nurses can be absent on Covid-19 or can be out of work due to close contact. Staff may also be cocooning following public health advice.
The HSE winter plan has promised new beds in hospitals but the INMO insists any new beds must involve more nurses.
Joe Hoolan, INMO Industrial Relations Office, has worked in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.
“Nursing and midwifery staff fear this winter like never before. There are many staff still out of work due to acquiring COVID at work. The health service must ensure adequate staffing levels throughout the winter, accounting for surges, sickness, and staff fatigue.
“The staffing pressures around COVID are unique and significant. The HSE’s Winter Plan will not work without hiring more nursing and midwifery staff and they should have been recruited before now. Talk of bed capacity increases is welcome, but without extra staffing, we are looking at extremely difficult and unsafe hospital environments over the winter,” he said.
The HSE's says its Winter Plan includes an additional €600 million, to support improved patient care in hospitals and in the community while keeping staff and those who service safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
It said key initiatives within the Winter Plan include: Additional acute bed capacity, additional home support packages, additional HSE procured private bed capacity, additional intermediate care beds, acute hospital egress.
CEO of the HSE Mr Paul Reid said the Winter Plan would be delivered in difficult circumstances.
“This winter is going to be more difficult than any we’ve ever faced before. We are living with COVID-19, we are living differently, however, we have planned differently and we have to take confidence in our Winter Plan. By ensuring agility and innovative healthcare measures, we can prioritise the health and wellbeing of our staff and the public, through the provision of healthcare pathways in the community and in our hospitals.
Anne O Connor, HSE Chief Operations Officer said a Community First approach to the delivery of care will be central to delivering safe, efficient and effective services through winter and beyond.
"Service delivery will be re-oriented towards general practice, primary care and community-based services,” she said.