THE threatened closure of an extra 50 beds at the region’s flagship hospital next week has been condemned as akin to a ‘Fawlty Towers’ approach to healthcare management, a nursing union has claimed.
The charge was levelled by INMO industrial relations officer Mary Fogarty, who warned the reduction in beds would cause a total collapse of acute hospital services in the region.
The INMO claimed there were 45 patients awaiting access to beds at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick on Tuesday. Ms Fogarty said the union had warned that the reconfiguration of acute services in the region would cause huge problems unless an extra 135 beds were provided in Limerick, which never happened.
“Patient care is being severely compromised now, therefore the INMO calls on HIQA to undertake an urgent review of services at MWRH, Limerick following their recommendations in the review of Ennis hospital, which was central to the HSE argument to close these beds,” she said.
HSE officials have argued that early discharge, a shorter length of stay and an increased level of consultant input and not extra beds are the long-term solutions to overcrowding in Limerick hospital.
Ms Fogarty claimed early discharge planning is not being implemented to the scale required and that some patients who were discharged have come back through A&E a few days later.
The current proposals include a reduction of 35 WTE (Working Time Equivalent) nurses (25 in Limerick and 10 in the maternity) and a ward and theatre closure in Croom, unless consultants and staff can come up with alternative savings.
She says nursing unions have made themselves available for discussions on September 16 but the HSE want to close beds sooner than this date.
However, the Mid-West HSE claims the INMO statement on the situation in Limerick hospital on Tuesday does not reflect a true picture of patients awaiting admission at 8am, as there were 24 patients awaiting admission.
The balance of 21 patients had been properly admitted and were being cared for as in-patients, either in wards or in the transit lounge. At 2pm, the HSE stated the figure had further reduced to 14.
“Management have been open and honest with the public sector unions through a series of ongoing briefings and meetings about the need to adjust work practices and service provision in light of the limited resources that are allocated to the hospital.
“The HSE are continuing this process under the chairmanship of the Labour Relations Commission and it is disappointing that the nursing unions have decided not to partake in these consultations.
“This is despite a public statement by the local INMO to the effect that if work practices and processes changed at the hospital, significant resources would be freed up to ‘balance the books’,” the HSE stated.