IT’S a bit like Hobson’s Choice, damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
The deepening frustrations of front-line nurses at the emergency department at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick must have plummeted to the depths of despair for them to take such drastic action as to invoke industrial dispute procedures.
Nurses claim they were forced to engage in yesterday’s four-hour work stoppage at the hospital to highlight their belief that the department is “unsafe” for patients because of cutbacks.
The nurses, through their regional industrial relations officer, Mary Fogarty, described as appalling the conditions for patients and the clinical safety risks because of imposed budgetary measures and continuous hospital overcrowding.
The problems, she claimed, are exacerbated by a moratorium on the recruitment of registered nurses; closed beds throughout the region in acute hospital services, community hospitals and nursing units; the failure to directly fund additional consultant posts and the failure of the reconfiguration process to transfer all day surgery to Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals.
In her broadside to the HSE, Ms Fogarty warned that the extent of the problem is being hidden by excessive use of overtime and agency nurses.
“This dispute flows directly from management’s failure to provide the required number of nursing staff to ensure, on a 24/7 basis, safe care is available to all patients attending the emergency department in the Mid-West Regional Hospital, Limerick.
“To suggest, as management has, that the issue of safe care can be addressed by adjustments to rosters, skill mixes and greater flexibility is simply untrue and confirms how detached management, in this hospital, is from the frontline and the needs of patients,” she declared.
The INMO representative outlined how nurses working at the hospital have repeatedly raised their concerns in respect of the clinical safety issues with both HIQA and senior HSE management. Unfortunately, due to what she claimed is the inability of both bodies to address the deplorable clinical environment now visible daily at the hospital, nurses were driven to publicly highlight the serious situation through industrial action.
“The INMO believes that, in order to protect patients and staff in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, direct intervention is required by the Minister for Health to ensure safe, responsive and adequately staffed services are available for people in the Mid-West area,” she said.
Not unexpectedly, her comments provoked a backlash from the HSE Mid-West. A spokesman claimed senior officials had “encountered an extraordinary lack of co-operation in normal contingency planning” over the issue.
HSE Mid-West area manager Bernard Gloster said, “In a situation where extra funding is not, and will not be, available from Government and all concerned know this full well, it would make better sense to sit down and see how we can best utilise the resources we have”.
By their very nature, nurses are considerate, compassionate and hard working people. For anyone entering that profession those characteristics are engrained in their DNA.
Over the last few years they have been forced to work in totally unsatisfactory conditions where it seems services have been dispensed according to funding rather than needs.
For the decision makers, the nurses’ action was a difficult pill to swallow. Such industrial action is very uncommon and by engaging in it, nurses have delivered their prognosis. The remedy, however, is in the hands of the HSE.
A bum note
BETWEEN the jigs and the reels, some strings were pulled. Or to be politically correct, someone somewhere exercised some clout that denied Ennis the opportunity of showcasing the town and a county inextricably linked and deeply rooted in traditional music and Irish culture.
Ennis put their bid on the table to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2012 but so did current hosts Cavan and Sligo. After the first tally, Ennis headed the poll but in a second ballot, after Sligo’s elimination, Ennis fell behind Cavan, who secured host town status for the third successive year.
Ennis was denied by a solitary vote at that meeting of the Árd Comhairle of Comhaltas Ceóltoirí Éireann. As it transpired, it was a vote that denied the town of Ennis and county of Clare a conservative €20m windfall because that is what the fleadh is reckoned to be worth in real terms.
For over 12 months the local Fleadh Cheoil Working Group, established under the auspices of the Ennis-based Abbey branch of Comhaltas Ceóltoirí Éireann and bolstered by the involvement of local governing bodies and cultural organisations, fine-tuned Ennis’ bid.
While their case was professionally prepared and excellent presented, it seems their only failure was to convince those with the voting power to plum for Ennis, having successfully hosted Fleadh Cheoil an hÉireann in 1956 and again in 1977.
Indeed, in the aftermath of the defeat, conspiracy theories abounded that a deal had been brokered so that the 2013 event will go to Northern Ireland, Derry to be precise, for the first time in its history. The reason being that Derry will be UK City of Culture that year.
Understandably, chairman of the working group, Micheál Ó Riabhaigh tried to put a positive spin on things, saying that, in his opinion, it is inevitable that Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann will come back to Ennis.
Shannon Development chairman, Dr Vincent Cunnane is equally optimistic.
“Ennis has a well deserved national and international reputation as a centre to enjoy traditional Irish music. We still believe it is a perfect fit for this wonderful event. This is not the end of our efforts to secure this prestigious event for Ennis. We will try again,” he vowed.
Anthony Daly once famously said that we, in Clare, love our music. He struck the right chord that day in Croke Park. Some day, hopefully in the not too distant future, Clare will be given the platform to express that proud boast.