Mary Fogarty, Assistant Director of Industrial Relations, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Mid West region, criticised those not complying with guidelines, following the publication of a report by the Department of Public Health Mid West, Monday, which revealed a man who failed to restrict his movements after a foreign trip led to at least 56 people being infected with Covid-19.
One of those infected with the virus by the so-called super-spreader, attended a party while waiting on a test result which later proved positive, resulting in others at the party being infected.
Up to ten households and members of a sports team and players families were also infected with the potentially deadly virus.
Ms Fogarty called for “testing at airports, as a mechanism to in some way ensure compliance of public health recommendations” and to try to curb the virus spreading further.
“There should be testing at airports of people coming into the country, how many others are there that we don’t know about,” she asked.
When asked about her opinion on the index case not restricting his movements, Ms Fogarty replied: “What does anybody say to that – it’s putting everybody at risk, patients, frontline staff, communities, older persons, vulnerable people, people who are immunosuppressed.”
“It’s putting so many people at risk.”
Ms Fogarty also said her members in Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary were “very anxious and very concerned” about working through the winter at University Hospital Limerick which is consistently the most overcrowded hospital in the country.
She claimed that “around 125 nursing vacancies” needed to be filled at UHL, “just to try and keep (it) stable, as it currently is”.
“We’re at conciliation presently, seeking to get agreement with the hospital on filling current vacancies before they move to open additional beds. It’s not moving very fast at the moment, it’s very slow.”
On September 16th last, a UHL spokesman said that staffing deficits across the UL Hospitals Group stood at “approximately 84 whole-time equivalent staff, or 4.8% or our nursing workforce”, and this figure did not include “temporary vacancies resulting from staff on maternity leave, sick leave etc”.
“We utilise agency and overtime to cover temporary vacancies and we use every opportunity to convert agency workers to permanent staff,” the spokesman explained.
They said they were also “grateful for nursing retirees, existing staff on career breaks, unpaid leave and rescued hours who have returned or increased their hours to support essential services”.
The spokesman also stated the hospital was “actively recruiting” for staff since early March and it was “offering positions to successful candidates on a weekly basis”.
All current student nurses and midwives graduating from University of Limerick have also been offered “permanent contracts”.
“In addition we have also a further 150 nurses from overseas who will be starting on a phased basis from the beginning of November. As of the end fo August 2020, we had recruited approximately 150 staff nurses in the year-to-date with an additional 16 staff returning from retirement or career breaks.”
An interim care facility opened temporarily at the University of Limerick sports arena is providing additional capacity for only non-covid patients and local injury units are operating across the region to alleviate attendances at UHL’s overcrowded emergency department.
UHL stated recently that a 60-bed block on the grounds of the hospital is due to be opened before the end of this year, while there is no firm date for the construction of a proposed 96-bed block which would further alleviate pressure on the Limerick ED.
Final works on a 24-bed block are due be completed at Croom Orthopedic Hospital in the first quarter of 2021.
As a response to the coronavirus pandemic UHL has reconfigured the ED as a designated pathway for COVID or suspected COVID patients where they can be isolated, assessed and treated until they can be confirmed or de-listed and discharged or admitted.
Non COVID patients are diverted either to an Acute Surgical Unit (ASU)/Surgical ED or an Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU), meaning the hospital has effectively been running three emergency departments for the past few months.
Today, there were 40 patients on trollies at UHL, including 38 in the Emergency Department and two on wards.
Private patients in public hospitals are being charged €813 per trolley per night in line with 2013 legislation passed by the Dail, the HSE stated last week.