Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.
The trade union Fórsa has said that the growing shortage of health and social care professionals at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is undermining the hospital's ability to deliver vital services and they further claim that management are choosing to ignore the problem.
Health and social care professionals (HSCP) include pharmacy staff, dietitians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists as well as cardiology and respiratory specialists.
The union says the recent increase in the number of beds at the hospital has caused the shortage of pharmacy staff to grow by 40% since April, while the overall deficit of HSCP staff at the Louth hospital has jumped by 27% since January.
Fórsa official Barry Cunningham said the continuing and growing staff shortage, and management’s failure to respond to it, is undermining hospital services for the entire region: “We’ve been trying to engage with management at the hospital on this issue, but there’s been no progress at all.
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“Management has, instead, adopted an ostrich strategy, sticking their heads in the sand and hoping, somehow, that this growing problem will simply disappear.
“This isn’t good enough. The recent €30m investment in the hospital has seen new wards and theatre space developed. While the investment is very good news for people in the region, until the newly-expanded hospital has the required complement of staff to deliver the full range of services, it’s just empty corridors and equipment,” he said.
Mr Cunningham added that the staffing crisis at the hospital has also been exacerbated by a management decision to get rid of some agency staff providing clerical services. He said there remains a threat that more of these staff could be let go shortly.
“Once you start shedding staff providing essential administrative and clerical services, the burden falls back on existing staff, which in turn undermines their capacity provide the appropriate support to clinical staff,” he said.
Mr Cunningham said the combination of failing to address the HSCP deficit and getting rid of support staff effectively reduces the capacity of a newly-expanded hospital to deliver services.
“If you cannot staff the hospital properly, what was the point of the bricks-and-mortar investment in the first place?” he asked. “What is the point of the technological investment?
“Management need to stop pretending there isn’t a problem. The longer it’s ignored, the more people will have to be re-directed to other hospitals to get the care and treatment they require,” he said.