THE UL Hospitals Group has warned that a proposed work-to-rule by midwives could “cause disruption” at the University Maternity Hospital Limerick, should industrial action go ahead.
The decision comes after a failure to find resolutions over staffing and other issues at the Ennis Road hospital, during recent talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.
A spokesperson for the Group said “careful planning” will be required as a result of the industrial action.
Though the final ballot was not complete at the time of going to press this Wednesday night, a source told the Limerick Leader that it was very likely to be strongly in favour of industrial action. The Hospitals Group chief director of nursing and midwifery, Margaret Gleeson, said that the midwives’ industrial action was “unnecessary and untimely”.
She said that though there has been no disagreement between the group and the INMO that more midwives are needed, both parties have “been unable to reach agreement is on the levels required. “The group remains open to discussions at a local level. We also appeal to the INMO to work with us as we continue to recruit additional midwives – locally and nationally – in what is a highly competitive jobs market at present.”
She said that the INMO is currently engaged in the National Birthrate Plus Workforce Planning group, which she said is the “only evidence-based workforce planning tool” for nationwide maternity services.
Ms Gleeson said that she appeals to the union to await the outcomes and recommendations of the planning group.
“It is therefore hugely disappointing that at a time when the INMO is engaged in this national discussion, it should now take industrial action at UMHL over similar issues,” she added.
Earlier this month, midwives at UMHL engaged in an hour-long lunch protest outside the hospital to highlight the “unsafe levels of staffing”.
INMO industrial relations officer Mary Fogarty said at the protest that there were only two midwives for every 28 antenatal and postnatal mothers and babies “on a regular basis”, at UMHL. She said that the ratio of midwives to births at the hospital is “probably one of the worst in the country”.
However, a spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group has rejected claims that the care of mothers and babies is “being compromised” due to staffing levels.
The spokesperson said that the group is making “every effort” to fill all midwifery vacancies and is also recruiting additional midwives and neonatal nurses.
“At a time when the difficulties of recruiting and retaining staff are widely acknowledged and the HSE is offering incentives for emigrant nurses to return, UL Hospitals is seeking to recruit nurses and midwives locally, nationally and internationally.”
The spokesperson said that according to the most recent perinatal statistics published by the HSE, the maternity hospital had an “above-average” performance in relation to maternal and neonatal care delivery.
UMHL is the second largest hospital outside Dublin, and had a total of 4,540 births recorded in 2014. As part of its €3bn capital expenditure plan, the Department of Health recently announced the relocation of the maternity hospital to a “state-of-the-art” facility on the University Hospital Limerick campus.
Ms Fogarty said that though the INMO welcomes the new hospital, it is a “completely separate issue” to UMHL’s current concerns.
“It is many years away. But even so if there was a new hospital today, it would still need to be adequately staffed to make sure that it is safe.”
It is not known yet when the union’s industrial action will take place.