Hospital bosses reject claims of unsafe staffing levels at Limerick intensive care unit

HSE chief operations officer Damien McCallion.

THE University of Limerick Hospitals Group (ULHG) has rejected claims by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) that it is failing to provide safe staffing levels in the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital Limerick.

The INMO has commenced a ballot of nurses in the Limerick Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for industrial action over a “lack of consistent safe staffing in the intensive care unit, which is having a detrimental impact on nurses health”

An INMO spokeswoman provided statistics to illustrate a “failure by UHL management 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 or paid to nurses as requested.

“Funding is available for 91 ICU nurses at University Hospital Limerick, but there are only 70 available to be rostered. This is putting pressure on staff and their ability to take time off outside of their rostered shifts. ICU wards are very different to other wards, where the optimum level of care is one nurse to every single patient,” the spokeswoman explained.

When asked for a response, a spokesman for ULHG acknowledged that while the hospital is experiencing staff deficits, it is continuing to provide “one-to-one” care for ICU patients.

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“The maximum provision for nursing in the ICU at University Hospital Limerick is 91.83 and there are currently 73.64 on the roster.

“Of the 18.19 vacancies, 10.62 are permanent roles, for which our nursing recruitment campaign continues to run nationally and internationally. The remaining 7.57 vacancies are temporary, arising from sick leave, maternity leave, etc.

“Staff are currently redeployed from other areas of the hospital to support patient care in ICU when required. Standards of care in the unit, which requires one-to-one care, have always been maintained,” the spokesman added.

UHL was once again the most overcrowded hospital in the country today (Tuesday) with 106 admitted patients on trolleys waiting for beds.

HSE chief operations officer Damien McCallion said an expert team of HSE officials sent to UHL last April would “continue to work with the hospital” to help alleviate patient overcrowding.

However, Mr McCallion said the response needs to include action from hospitals and community healthcare settings, as well as local injury units and GPs.

Mr McCallion said UHL “have managed to reduce the number of patients who are waiting for discharge” which has been “a pressure point” for hospitals around the country.