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Ennistymon Hospital. Photograph by John Kelly.

Concerns over staffing levels at Ennistymon Community Hospital

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Concern has been expressed about the cessation of respite care at Ennistymon Community Hospital for two separate five-month periods due to staffing shortages.
Councillor Liam Grant (GP) has expressed his disappointment that staff shortages have led to the ending of respite services from August 2022 to January 2023 and from August 2023 to January 2024. The palliative care bed and five respite beds are currently available for admission.
Councillor Grant asked for a comprehensive report on the services provided at Ennistymon Community Hospital and HSE plans for future development at an HSE West Forum meeting.
The Green Party Councillor also requested figures for how many beds are available for long-term, respite and palliative care, the occupancy rate and whether were there any staffing issues affecting what the hospital can provide.
Welcoming the submission of an application to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to register six new beds, Councillor Grant said he hoped staffing issues don’t arise at the community facility in the future.
The current bed capacity in Ennistymon CNU is 25 beds, which includes 19 long-stay beds, one palliative care bed and five respite beds.
HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare Chief Officer, Maria Bridgeman confirmed the long stay beds have been operating at full capacity.
While the HSE has got approval to recruit some new staff, Ms Bridgeman admitted it is challenging to get medical personnel to work in a rural area like Ennistymon, particularly if they don’t live in the area.
Even though this has been partly addressed by agency staff, she pointed out the HSE couldn’t rely on agency staff on a long term basis and continue to work to try and resolve this staffing issue.
There is a high level of demand for long-stay beds in the area and Ms Bridgeman noted there is a waiting list for access to these beds.
“Demand for respite service has been affected by the pandemic, as many older people have been reluctant to leave their homes and access respite in a community setting.
“In spite of this, respite services in Ennistymon CNU were offered during the pandemic in line with public health guidelines and have continued to be offered since then. The average occupancy of the unit over the last 12 months is 90% for the 27 beds.
“Recruitment and retention of staff remains an issue at Ennistymon CNU, as has been the case for many smaller units in rural areas.
The palliative care bed and five respite beds are currently available for admission.
“In order to meet the demand for long stay care needs of the local population, the HSE has carried out refurbishment of one room to repurpose four respite beds to two long-stay beds. This will reduce the number of respite beds from nine to five and increase the number of long-stay beds to 19. Whilst in the short term this will reduce the overall bed capacity to 25 beds, it will ensure a targeted response to local population demand.”
In addition, Ms Bridgeman confirmed an application has been submitted to HIQA to register six new beds. An announced inspection took place by HIQA on February 7 2024. Some additional refurbishment is required to meet the standards in order to secure registration. These beds cannot be occupied until they are successfully registered with HIQA.
A business case has been submitted nationally to secure an additional staffing requirement of 6.5 Whole Time Equivalent WTE staff to safely open the new beds. On receipt of the HIQA registration, the addition of these six beds to the bed stock will increase the capacity of the unit to a total of 31 beds
It is important to note that the opening of the new six bedded extension is dependent on the recruitment of additional staff to ensure the safe care of all residents. The HSE are currently awaiting national approval to recruit these staff members.

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