The management of University Hospital Limerick (UHL) is focused on ensuring staffing deficits are tackled as a priority, the the UL Hospital Group (ULHG) has said after Intensive Care Unit nurses at the hospital threatened strike action last Monday.
A spokesman for ULHG said it was “disappointed” by Monday’s announcement by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) that ICU nurses at UHL who are members of the union will be balloted for industrial action.
“It is premature given that local engagement and other dispute resolution procedures have not been exhausted,” the spokesperson for ULHG said.
He added staff in the group were being “redeployed” to UHL’s ICU “to support patient care when required” and that “standards of care in the ICU, which requires one-to-one care, have always been maintained”.
“Like all hospitals around the country, we are affected by staffing challenges and there is a concerted focus by the management at the hospital to ensure that staffing deficits are prioritised,” the spokesperson said.
“We are fortunate to have one of the most modern ICUs in the country. Staff working in the ICU provide exceptional care to our patients.”
The hospital spokesman said the ULHG remained “committed to engaging on the matter to ensure satisfactory resolution of the matter”.
He said “nurse management at UHL engages regularly with INMO colleagues at the joint Nurse Management Union Forum” where “issues relating to staffing and other matters are discussed”.
“Nurse management have had two specific meetings with the INMO on the matter of ICU staffing and these have informed recruitment campaigns as well as planning for nursing staff leave entitlements. These meetings have also led to the implementation of a number of short-term measures to ensure the continued safe delivery of care.”
“Our nursing recruitment campaign has been underway for some time, is running nationally and internationally, and includes a bespoke campaign for ICU nursing.”
He added: “We have six clinical skills facilitator positions within our critical care unit, who support a significant training programme which includes new staff in the ICU unit.
On January 3rd, ULHG declared a “major internal incident” of patient overcrowding in UHL along with unsustainable pressure on its Emergency Department.
Despite a range of measures aimed at reducing the trolley crisis at UHL, persistent overcrowding has continued.
On Monday, the INMO announced it had begun the process of balloting ICU nurses at UHL “in pursuance of safe staffing”.
“After exhausting negotiations at local level, the INMO has been mandated by members to commence a ballot for industrial action in the Intensive Care Unit in University Hospital Limerick,” Mary Fogarty, INMO assistant director of relations, said.
“The issues that exist in University Hospital Limerick have been well documented by this union. The lack of consistent safe staffing in the intensive care unit is having a detrimental impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of our members working in this unit and their patients,” she added.
“Hospital management have failed to provide an appropriate contingency plan to address the nurse deficits in the ICU and the enablement of outstanding annual leave, time off In Lieu to be taken and/or paid to nurses as requested.
“A ballot will take place over the coming weeks, and we will notify hospital management of the outcome upon completion.”