TD doubles down on claims of bullying at Limerick hospital

Limerick Independent Ireland TD Richard O'Donoghue

A COUNTY Limerick TD has reiterated claims that nurses have been bullied out of their jobs at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue also called on UHL management to step down and allow a new management team to take over.

Asked if he could substantiate his claims, Deputy O’Donoghue said he was liaising with a group of whistleblowers, including former nurses who have left due to stress, in relation to allegations of bullying and that he could not name anyone at this stage.

“I have spoken to staff and they tell me that morale in there is at an all time low,” he added.

Deputy O’Donoghue was commenting after a spokesman for the UL Hospitals Group described claims he made in the Dáil last week as “unsubstantiated and misinformed”.

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Addressing the Dáil last Wednesday about the ongoing trolley crisis at UHL, Deputy O’Donoghue, also said: “I also want to be addressed the bullying of nurses in the hospital, and how many nurses have left this hospital due to bullying by management. The amount of nurses that we have lost in this hospital is unbelievable.”

“The hospital has introduced a three-minute assessment for a patient to be assessed if a patient gets an extra minute, the management comes down and chastises the person who is trying to look after a patient,” the Deputy added.

In a statement issued to the Limerick Post, the Hospitals Group spokesman said it was “important to correct the misinformation concerning UL Hospitals Group entered on the Dail record”.

He added that the Hospitals Group was not familiar with the unsubstantiated claims made in the Dáil about workplace bullying and that such allegations “are taken very seriously”.

“There is no three-minute limit for assessment of patients in ED or anywhere in UHL, from the time of presentation to discharge. ED triage is an important clinical judgement that requires experienced nurses to decide upon the best course of action for a patient. This is supported by a senior clinical decision maker. There is never an occasion when pressure is applied to staff in assessing patients whether in triage or in the ED by the medical teams. The time taken to assess patients varies according to clinical need. The three-minute limit referred to in the Dail today simply does not exist at any stage in the patient journey from presentation to discharge.

“Lines of communication with our public representatives are well established and it is unfortunate in this case that misinformation has been entered on to the Dail record without any effort to clarify the facts in advance with UL Hospitals Group.

“Nor are we familiar with the unsubstantiated claims made in the Dail today about workplace bullying. Allegations of bullying are taken very seriously and there are stringent policies in place to deal with same (namely the HSE Dignity at Work Policy and the HSE Grievance Procedure). At every stage of any such process, staff are continually reminded of the supports available to them and are actively encouraged to avail of same. The Employee Assistance Programme offers a 24/7 free confidential support service and the Occupational Health Department focuses on staff physical and mental wellbeing at work.

“We conduct exit interviews with nursing staff who are leaving or transferring from a service. This is recognised as a valid mechanism of capturing and responding to the views, opinions and feedback from staff. No issues in relation to bullying have emerged from this process and we are committed to finding ways to continually improve the working environment for employees across our services and to make positive changes.

“Significant recruitment of nursing staff has taken place. A total of 286.12 WTE (whole-time equivalent) staff nurses commenced in UHL in 2021. These new staff supported the opening of additional capacity, new developments and replacement of vacant posts.

“We acknowledge the concerns raised by our public representatives in relation to long wait times for a bed for admitted patients in our ED and elsewhere in our hospital. This arises from the growth in demand on hospital services around the country which has been sustained over several months. We are doing everything we can to meet this demand within available resources. We apologise for patients who are waiting and we reassure them that they will continue to receive all appropriate care while they do wait,” the statement concluded.