THE full opening of a new state-of-the-art emergency department at University Hospital Limerick could be delayed if “a significant number” of nurses are not recruited within the next nine months.
Last week, the UL Hospitals Group confirmed that the new A&E at UHL, which is “on target” to open in March 2017, will require 100 new staff in total. This number includes nurses, non-consultant hospital doctors and consultants.
It is estimated that, of the 100 new jobs, there will be 50 to 60 new nurses at the Dooradoyle A&E.
However, a spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group said that discussions are ongoing with staff and unions to “agree on an exact breakdown of staff to be recruited”.
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation industrial relations officer, Mary Fogarty told the Limerick Leader that the recruitment of a “significant number” of nurses may not happen “unless there is a radical change in incentives for people to work in emergency departments”.
The INMO has informed the HSE that it will be watching the recruitment process “very closely”, and that it “won’t be in a position to, without our members’ agreement, to move into a new department until all staffing is in place”.
Ms Fogarty said that the INMO have been lobbying for 30 extra midwives to be recruited at University Maternity Hospital Limerick, for close to a year.
“Nine months on, they [UL Hospitals] are not further ahead with recruitment.”
She said that it will not be possible for current staff to cover a greater area, if there are few new nurses recruited for the new A&E.
She said that a “partial opening" could be an outcome.
“From my understanding, it is going to be a state-of-the-art department. Parts of it will have to remain closed, I would anticipate, unless the full staffing levels are available. We would have to consult with our members, but I would anticipate that we wouldn’t be in a position to move until the staffing is agreed,” she added.
University Hospital Limerick had the busiest emergency department in the country for three days in a row, this week. On Monday, there were 28 patients on trolleys and additional beds in the wards. This rose to 40 patients on Tuesday, and peaked national overcrowding again on Wednesday morning, with 42 patients waiting to be admitted to a bed.
Overcrowding soared at UHL last month, as 592 patients were treated on trolleys — the highest in the country in May. According to figures released by UL Hospitals, there were 5,588 patients admitted at UHL emergency department.
A spokesperson said that the group has “long acknowledged that the emergency department at UHL is simply too small for the volumes of patients attending and is not fit-for-purpose”.