The nurses at Our Lady of Lourdes instigated a work to rule at the troubled hospital in a bid to force the hand of the HSE to start filling vacant nursing positions.
Management at the hospital accept that they currently have a deficit of 104 whole time equivalent posts, that remain unfilled. However, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives organisation (INMO) - the hospital continues to work at full capacity and this ensures that there are insufficient nurses on duty to provide safe and appropriate care to patients.
The strike action is in the form of a work-to-rule with nurses setting aside non-core working duties in order to increase their ability to provide direct care to patients. The INMO say it likely that the dispute will enhance patient care as they will be focusing on their clinical duties rather than non-essential administrative tasks.
Some progress has been made. On Monday of last week the INMO secured confirmation, from the HSE, that all vacant nursing posts, in the country’s Emergency Departments (ED), will be filled, as provided for in the recent Agreement, despite the recent announcement, to pause recruitment, from the HSE.
The confirmation, that all posts will be filled, was given at the third Review of the ED Agreement, reached in January, between the HSE/Department of Health and the INMO, which was chaired by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) earlier today.
This part of the ED Agreement provides for the filling of over 144 staff nurse posts, in emergency departments across the country, as part of a comprehensive ED Agreement. This agreement also provides for a system wide escalation policy, weekly meetings between senior management and the INMO and ongoing health and safety and hygiene audits of all emergency departments.
However management at the hospital say they are disappointed at the decision to strike.
The RCSI Hospitals Group - who oversee OLOL - say it ' regrets' the decision taken by the INMO on the 20th May 2016 to undertake industrial action, 'particularly as any change' in existing terms and conditions for nurses can only be advanced at a national level.
“The RCSI Hospital Group’s focus is on patient safety, quality outcomes, and effectiveness of care across all our hospitals,” they said in a statement.
“Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda will implement a contingency plan to minimise, in so far as is possible, the impact of this industrial action on patient care. The Emergency Departments will remain open over the course of the industrial action in an effort to continue to meet patients’ emergency medical needs.
“Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital continues to be an extremely busy hospital with 52,000 attendances per year, 13,000 emergency admissions and over 22,000 inpatient discharges.
During 2016, the hospital has experienced a 9 per cent increase in ED attendances in comparison to 2015, however the hospital has secured 89 per cent compliance with the national 9 hour target (registration – home) and a 20 per cent reduction in the number of patients waiting for ward bed accommodation as per the Weekly INMO Trolley Report dated week ending the 13th May 2016.
Gerry Adams says the positions must be filled.
“I want to pay tribute and extend my solidarity to the staff of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda who do an incredible job treating patients in the most difficult of circumstances.
“The fact that the hospital is operating with 104 less staff than it should is nothing short of a scandal.
“Our Lady of Lourdes has consistently been amongst the three hospitals in the State with the highest emergency department trolley figures, and yesterday had the highest with 26 patients waiting on trolleys for a bed.
“The chaos in our hospital emergency departments will not be resolved by the Government’s ill-considered and underfunded two-tier approach, agreed with Fianna Fáil during Government negotiations.
“The introduction last week of a recruitment moratorium at hospital groups is only going to worsen the situation.
“What we need is real investment in public healthcare and the required staffing levels in hospitals to be met. The Minister for Health must take urgent action to resolve issues at Our Lady of Lourdes.”