Our health service is something fundamental to us all. As private health insurance has become impossible for some of us to afford, more and more of us are reliant on the public service.
That public service is something that the weakest and most vulnerable people in our society rely on. From premature babies born in our overworked maternity wards to older people in hospital after a fall or mishap, there are few organisations more important than our health service.
Unfortunately our health system is coming apart at the seams. That is certainly the case in Cork University Hospital.
With the longstanding embargo on recruitment in the HSE, the recent cutting of agency staff hours in the CUH and more recently, a ban on overtime for junior doctors in the flagship hospital, staff there are under huge pressure.
There is no way to slash costs and maintain high standards of health care. Cutting hours for agency nurses, when nurses are already under huge pressure only raises the prospect of serious incidents occurring.
Many nurses retired in February and since then many more have left. The remaining staff are overworked and morale is poor. Working conditions in the hospital are the worst in recent memory and staff are frustrated by the high numbers of patients they have to deal with, meaning that they cannot give the care they wish.
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (IMNO) spokesperson in the CUH Patsy Doyle recently said INMO members have “grave concerns” for patient care on foot of a reported deficit in finance at the hospital.
CUH is the largest maternity hospital in the country and delivers 9,000 babies per year. It is currently the subject of RTÉ’s ‘From Here to Maternity’ show. She says that the hospital is at least 80 midwives short at the moment.
She says that the “CUMH deserves to be staffed according to clinical need and not a constant casualty of external overspend”.
So the INMO is not happy that overspend elsewhere means that they have to few midwives and cannot guarantee women in labour one to one care from a midwife. A baby in neo natal care cannot be guaranteed a midwife or nurse either.
Someone I know had her baby in CUH recently. She also had a baby around 18 months ago. The difference in the care she received was huge, she said.
This time she spent most of the day without painkillers as staff were overworked. When they went off to get a painkiller, they ended up dealing with another patient and didn’t get back to her. She said that staff tried their best but there were just too few of them, which made her experience a lot more stressful.
The numbers of patients on trolleys in CUH is down but that is mainly down to the fact that they are being pushed up to wards where staff are too overworked to take proper care of them.
It seems that wards will have to close soon. Health care is a zero sum game. You can’t keep cutting costs and expect no change. Wards will have to close or the standard of healthcare in our hospitals will start to plummet. Let’s hope it’s the former because it is nigh on impossible that there will be funds to hire more staff.