HSE bosses are to be called to appear before city and county councillors over the continuing crisis at the University Hospital.
Three separate motions on the health service were unanimously backed at this month’s metropolitan district council meeting, including the call to bring management to City Hall by Cllr James Collins, Fianna Fail.
Sinn Fein councillor Malachy McCreesh secured backing for his motion, which urged the intervention of Ministers Michael Noonan and Jan O’Sullivan at the hospital, which has seen hugely extended waiting times at accident and emergency, and complaints from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) on staffing.
It is for this reason front-line staff are staging a work-to-rule next month.
The council also gave its backing to this action, following a motion by Anti-Austerity Alliance councillor Paul Keller.
Cllr McCreesh said overcrowding at the hospital is a “major emergency at this stage”.
“This is a local issue, but a national problem. As councillors, we come across this issue on a daily basis. Staff are dealing with a very dangerous problem at the hospital, and until we get more staff, the stress at the hospital will accelerate,” he said.
Cllr McCreesh, who represents the Dooradoyle area at City Hall, added: “Ongoing work upgrading medical wards must quicken pace, improving the capabilities of wards to house patients earmarked for admission. This is an intolerable state of affairs and I believe the Minister for Health should intervene in what is quickly becoming an uncontrollable situation.”
Cllr Keller said UHL is “swamped - all in the name of centralisation”.
“There are up to 50 beds occupied by elderly patients - patients who should not even be there and are waiting for Fair Deal places in nursing homes. The HSE can’t control the amount of people who present themselves with various illnesses. But it can control and ensure there is nursing staff and a bed to accommodate them,” he said.
Cllr Joe Leddin, Labour, said centralisation has been a “fiasco”. “We need to realise there is a growing population, but there are less beds available than there were back in the 1980s. That cannot be right,” he told the meeting.
But Fine Gael councillor Michael Hourigan pointed out that new A&E facilities are on their way in 2016.
Fianna Fail’s Kieran O’Hanlon said this is just too far away: “It is terrible that people who are in the caring profession have to put up with these conditions. It is even worse for the patients,” he said.
Fianna Fail councillor Joe Crowley’s parents sadly died in hospital some years ago.
His mother went into the hospital after a fall, but picked up another fatal bug which caused her to pass away.
“The situation has not improved. The public toilets, for example, are filthy. Money is not always the solution - it needs to be administered properly. The staff shortage is key and it will not be changed until there is a change in attitude,” he said.
Cllr Cian Prendiville, Anti-Austerity Alliance, urged councillors to stand with the staff who are taking the day of action.
He said: “We should unite behind it and fight for a properly funded health service. This could be the beginning of a new movement in the city. The first step in building an alliance designed to fight for this.”
His call to arms was supported by Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan.
Cllr James Collins asked: “Could the chief executive, or someone from the HSE come in and talk to us about their plans for the hospital care? Tell us what the challenges are?”
His idea was seconded by Cllr O’Hanlon.
But Fine Gael’s City East councillor Marian Hurley sounded a more sober note, saying: “It is clearly a management problem. The hospital is seriously overbudget. UHL is down on the priority list and will have to suffer.”