Nurses notify HSE over 'critical patient safety' issues in new Limerick ED

 'Regrettable' that concerns raised with media before management, says UHL 

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

Nurses notify HSE over 'critical patient safety' issues in new Limerick ED

INMO spokesperson, Mary Fogarty is worried about the skill mix at the hospital

THE HEALTH Service Executive has been notified of “critical patient safety issues” at the new state-of-the-art emergency department at University Hospital Limerick, following an urgent meeting among nursing staff this week.

Next Monday, UHL will officially open the doors to its new emergency department, following a lengthy recruitment campaign and an unsuccessful bid to secure additional funding for the facility.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) wrote to HSE management after a meeting with members on Tuesday evening, where they discussed a number of their main concerns.

“Furthermore, the plans seek to embed, forever, the unacceptable concept of admitted patients on trolleys,” the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group said that there was an “unprecedented level of engagement” with the union, and that it was “regrettable that the INMO has not raised its concerns with hospital management before raising them with the media”. 

INMO industrial relations officer, Mary Fogarty, told the Limerick Leader, ahead of the union meeting on Tuesday, that one of the main issues is the skill mix among newly-qualified nurses and recruits from abroad.

“The new nurses, who have come in, are concerned themselves. The nurses from overseas - I met some of them last night - and they are saying: ‘Look, I am not ready yet to work.’

“They are finding their feet. They would have a different style of nursing to here. So, they have raised it with the INMO their concerns. And some of the newer, qualified Irish nurses that are working there, and some of the senior nurses, have all raised concerns,” Ms Fogarty added. 

The UL Hospital’s spokesperson said that there was a three-week induction for all new staff, and that some nurses from overseas already have experience of working in English-speaking countries. 

“In relation to skillmix, it should be noted that two in three of the nursing staff in ED are classified as either proficient or expert, meaning they have many years of nursing experience, clinical expertise and training/education,” he added. 

INMO has stated that the newly-qualified staff, who have recently arrived in Ireland, are “still adapting to the new clinical environment”, and that there is a lack of staff with an “ED specialist qualification” in the new unit.

“This requires management to fast track clinical skills facilitators for the new Emergency Department so as to ensure all nurses are supported as they increase their competence and experience in this hugely challenging clinical environment,” a spokesperson said. 

In a statement this week, it added that the HSE has undertaken one “dry run” of the new facility, which took place on May 17. A “significant number of serious unsafe processes were identified”, but no feedback on this had been received by nurses, the spokesperson said.

The hospital spokesperson said that the balance of feedback in relation to the dry run “as a whole was very positive”. 

Ms Fogarty told this newspaper that nurses and patients had “endured a horrendous, overcrowded environment” for almost 10 years.

“Everybody wants it to open, but the concern is that, if it opens as it is, it is going to be trial-and-error. And they are concerned about that. I had a large group of very senior, very junior and new nurses, last night, all saying the same thing. They are actually all concerned.”

According to Labour TD Alan Kelly, the hospital is still short €2.7m for the new facility. The UL Hospitals Group had previously told the Leader that it needed this additional funding to operate the emergency department.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan said that, following a meeting with the UL Hospitals Group in March, CEO Colette Cowan indicated that the new ED will open, with or without the extra €2.7m.

Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said: “In the scheme of things, €2.7m isn’t a lot of money for the Government to find for such a critical service to the area.”