Senior staff nurse Ann Noonan, who is nearing retirement from her post in University Hospital Limerick (UHL), now has the freedom to say publicly what many of her colleagues in the Dooradoyle hospital cannot.
“Every member of staff that are any bit mobile that I talk to are leaving; it’s in their plan to go. Those that have commitments, including children, a mortgage or a husband, are staying, but anyone who is mobile is going,” she says.
Noonan (55) says staff are “burnt out, and they are absolutely and totally demoralised”, adding that the overcrowding crisis is being worsened by the hospital’s inability to hold on to staff.
“It’s totally understandable. Who would want to stay working in this environment when you could work elsewhere for the same money with less hassle?” asks Noonan, who is also an Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation representative.
A damning report from HIQA, the State’s health service watchdog, cited chronic overcrowding and significant nurse and bed shortages at UHL’s emergency department. Recently, the hospital said it is short 68 non-consultant doctors and at least 200 beds.
Things that used to be part of normal nursing care are no longer possible, Noonan says.
“The days of washing the patient’s skin, cutting their nails and brushing their hair are gone; that’s the way we did it, but we had time to do it,” she says.
“We had time to look after them, we had time to care for them but nurses don’t have time now because there isn’t enough of them and there are too many patients.”
Criticising the diagnostic services offered by the hospital, she says it is ridiculous that it is open only between 8am and 5pm unless in emergencies, leaving patients unnecessarily occupying beds.
“There are people in beds waiting for diagnostics that do not need to be in beds. I know for a fact that a patient recently sat in a bed from Tuesday to the following Monday for nothing else other than the fact they needed an MRI.”
More nursing home beds are needed to get patients discharged, she says. “Our demographics are getting older, there are a lot of patients who are not able to go home but they are not sick enough to be in hospital.”