Irish Health Minister Addresses Delayed Nurse Pay and Announces Emergency Services Review

Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly commits to expediting delayed pay rises for nurses and addressing the Health Service Executive's recruitment freeze. He also announces a review of emergency care in the Mid-West region, focusing on University Hospital Limerick's overcrowding issues.

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Nitish Verma
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Irish Health Minister Addresses Delayed Nurse Pay and Announces Emergency Services Review

Irish Health Minister Addresses Delayed Nurse Pay and Announces Emergency Services Review

Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has committed to expediting delayed pay rises for nurses and addressing frustrations over the Health Service Executive (HSE) recruitment freeze. Speaking at the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) annual conference in Croke Park, Dublin, Minister Donnelly acknowledged the impact of the embargo on clinical and nursing teams.

Why this matters: The delayed pay rises and recruitment freeze have significant implications for the quality of patient care and the overall healthcare system in Ireland. Addressing these issues is crucial to ensuring the well-being of patients and the stability of the healthcare workforce.

The HSE hired 8,000 staff last year, exceeding the 6,000 new workers funded by the Government, resulting in over 2,000 posts filled without backed funding. "What I want to see, resolution to this very quickly," stated Minister Donnelly, emphasizing his ongoing conversations with Cabinet colleagues to resolve the funding gap.

In a separate development, Minister Donnelly announced a review of emergency care in the Mid-West region, focusing on University Hospital Limerick (UHL), which is experiencing overcrowding and a significant increase in patients on trolleys. The review, to be conducted by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), will determine if a second emergency department is needed to support UHL.

Despite significant investments in UHL, including a 40% increase in the workforce and an extra 108 beds, the hospital continues to struggle with overcrowding. Minister Donnelly emphasized the need for a "step change" in investment capacity and reform, citing the success of other hospitals in reducing trolley numbers through clinical leadership and administrative changes.

The INMO estimates that there are close to 200 nursing vacancies at UHL, contrary to promises of safe staffing levels nationally. INMO President Karen McGowan warned that nurses' and midwives' ability to do their jobs safely "cannot come secondary to fiscal and budgetary requirements" and addressed insufficient funding for midwifery-led units.

Minister Donnelly dismissed claims that the emergency services review announcement is an election stunt, stating, "I'm not interested in what some election candidate is saying. I'm interested in what patients and families are saying." He highlighted plans to convert 400 agency staff members into full-time positions this year to alleviate staffing pressures and provide an additional 86 beds to UHL.

The timeline for the emergency services review in the Mid-West region remains uncertain, pending the findings of Chief Justice Frank Clarke's investigation into the 2022 death of 16-year-old Aoife Johnston at UHL. As the HSE recruitment freeze persists and concerns over patient care and staffing levels continue, Minister Donnelly faces mounting pressure to deliver on his commitments to expedite pay rises and address the challenges faced by nurses and midwives across Ireland.