NURSES and midwives in Letterkenny University Hospital are “on the floor” and “very fearful” for the winter months.
That’s the stark warning from Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Industrial Relations Officer Neal Donohoe after the organisation was locked in talks with HSE management in recent days over emergency winter plans.
Speaking to the Donegal News following the crucial meeting, Mr Donohoe said local management have put forward a request for extra beds, funds and additional staff.
While describing the meeting as “constructive”, he said the INMO and its members are gravely aware that action is needed sooner rather than later.
“We are approaching the end of September so action is urgently needed now because in the months of January and February things hit rock bottom. Our members have reported no relief throughout the summer months and now winter is approaching.
“Our members are very fearful of the number of very sick patients that will be coming through the door, and as yet there is no robust plan in place. We are talking about very sick people coming through the door, they are unwell and are presenting with complex cases. We have been in the situation in Letterkenny hospital where patients who have been admitted are sitting on a chair even after being admitted because there is no bed for them and no allocated nurse. Who is looking after the unwell here?”
Mr Donohoe said staff are feeling extreme hopelessness.
“Nurses and midwives are run ragged trying to keep up with the workload. The last few years have left nurses and midwives on the floor. They have lost all hope and it is not acceptable.”
Capacity and step down care
He said increased capacity and step down care are among measures needed as a matter of urgency.
“What is happening in Letterkenny hospital and across the board is that patients are having to stay in hospital because there is no step down care. Nursing home convalesce availability is not there and home help is not readily available. Letterkenny and Donegal generally is low in terms of step down beds, which are for patients who don’t require acute beds but who need somewhere to go for aftercare.”
He said the INMO have called on the HSE to put a call out to private hospitals to help with capacity.
“Before Covid, there was a discharge lounge in most hospitals where patients who had been discharged would sit with staff while they worked on their paperwork. The discharge lounge has not been brought back following Covid. Having something like that is a simple measure that would help alleviate pressure.”
There were 476 patients on trolleys around the country last Wednesday, according to INMO trolley watch figures. Thirty patients were on trolleys in LUH.
Mr Donohoe said the high trolley numbers, twinned with expected flu cases is making for an already miserable winter for patients and staff.
Elective surgeries are also of concern.
“Obviously, our members don’t want to see these postponed because behind the surgery is a patient who has been waiting a long tome for that operation, but again it all comes back to capacity.”
Ruling out any speculation of industrial action, Mr Donohoe said: “Our members want to work with patients, focus on their needs and protect them and we feel that our requests for step down beds and additional resources for the months ahead are reasonable, but they are also very urgently needed.
“The current situation and the feeling of dread being experienced by our members is not acceptable and neither is it for those who will present acutely unwell at Letterkenny hospital and other hospitals around the country this winter.”