Limerick midwives to stage work to rule

Limerick midwives on picket duty outside the Regional Maternity Hospital last month
Limerick midwives on picket duty outside the Regional Maternity Hospital last month

UL Hospitals Group has said it is “disappointed”  that the INMO is to take industrial action at University Maternity Hospital Limerick. in the form of a work-to-rule, “which has the potential to cause disruption and will require careful planning around contingencies”.

The action comes after conciliation talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) over staffing and other issues at UMHL broke down.

Margaret Gleeson, Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery, UL Hospitals Group, said: “This is an unnecessary and untimely action by the INMO as it comes at a time when the union is actively engaged at a national level in the National Birthrate Plus Workforce Planning group established by the Minister for Health. This is the only evidence-based workforce planning tool for maternity services and UL Hospitals Group looks forward to its recommendations on appropriate staffing levels.”

“It is therefore hugely disappointing that at a time when the INMO is engaged in this national discussion, it should now take industrial action at UMHL over similar issues. As Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery, I again appeal to the union to await the outcome of the National Birthrate Plus process in which it is engaged,” said Ms Gleeson.

Ms Gleeson added that there is no disagreement between UL Hospitals Group and the INMO that more midwives are required at University Maternity Hospital Limerick. “Where we have been unable to reach agreement is on the levels required and UL Hospitals is disappointed that the conciliation talks have not resulted in a resolution. The group remains open to discussions at a local level. We also appeal to the INMO to work with us as we continue to recruit additional midwives – locally and nationally – in what is a highly competitive jobs market at present,” she added.

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In common with other areas of the health service, UMHL has been dealing with legacy issues around the financial crisis, recruitment embargo and the loss of experienced staff through voluntary exit schemes. The hospital has also seen an increase in births and in the complexity of cases.

A statement on behalf of UL Hospitals said every effort is being made not only to fill vacancies in midwifery at UMHL but also to recruit additional midwives and neonatal nurses.

“At a time when the difficulties of recruiting and retaining staff are widely acknowledged and the HSE is offering incentives for emigrant nurses to return, UL Hospitals is seeking to recruit nurses and midwives locally, nationally and internationally,” the statement said.

Already this year, 55 midwives have been employed on permanent contracts by UL Hospitals Group. In addition, 13 midwifery graduates have recently been offered contracts. The CEO’s office has also just approved the placement of advertisements for 25 positions in general midwifery and 10 new neonatal nursing posts. All existing vacancies in the labour ward and the Maternity Emergency Unit have been filled.

midwives outside the maternity at lunchtime today 2UL Hospitals Group has recently appointed an additional consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology who commenced working this month. And an extra consultant neonatologist has also taken up post this month.

 “UL Hospitals rejects any assertion or suggestion that care of mothers and babies is being compromised due to staffing levels. It is worth noting that according to the most recent perinatal statistics published by the HSE, UMHL had an above-average performance in relation to maternal and neonatal care delivery.

“The hospital has also been fortunate to recruit two clinical skills facilitators this year to assist new midwives with developing skills and competencies. These are two qualified midwives whose expertise and presence on the wards helps offset the loss in experience through retirements.

“UL Hospitals Group continuously adopts measures to improve the care of mothers and babies at UMHL. Among the measures adopted in recent times are the implementation of the Irish Maternity Early Warning Score (IMEWS) national clinical guidelines for early identification of deteriorating patients and appropriate escalation of care; and improving patient safety through the adoption of the ISBAR communication tool, an internationally recognised barometer on how clinical information is shared among staff,” the statement concluded.