Staff shortages are big problem for Galway hospital

Over 200 nurses needed

SERIOUS recruitment challenges are posing significant difficulties in the provision of health and hospital services in Galway city and county.

There are more than 220 vacant nursing posts at University Hospital Galway while there is an acute shortage of workers in the home care services area.

Covid-related leave has exacerbated the problem at the Galway public hospital where management are trying to open closed beds ahead of extra pressure expected during winter.

Councillors told a meeting of the West Regional Health Forum on Tuesday afternoon of elderly patients contacting them after they were forced to wait 72 hours on a trolley in the Emergency Department. Another case told of a young boy who was on a chair who became very ill and a trolley wasn’t available for him.

Chief Operations Officers of Saolta hospital group Ann Cosgrove said there currently aren’t enough nurses to meet the demand in health services across the city and county. Recruitment campaigns are operating in Ireland and overseas, particularly in India, in an effort to source additional staff.

The recruitment department in the hospital itself has also been “bumped up” in a bid to improve the situation.

Work has stared on the construction of a new but temporary Emergency Department which is expected to open in July 2022. A planned larger Emergency Department and Mother and Children unit costing in the region of €300 million won’t be in place could take until 2026.

The numbers attending Galway’s Emergency Department have increased by 14 per cent so far this year, with a particular surge since July.

Ann Cosgrove acknowledged that staff shortages has affected bed numbers in the hospital. Saolta are working with the two private hospitals in Galway to see if they will be able to use extra beds in their facilities this winter.

Cllr Daithi Ó Cualain told the meeting that nurses’ morale was very low and that he’d been told of nurses considering resigning because of the shortage of staff. He told of patients telling him that they felt they were a “burden” on the hospital and were being “pushed out”.

Ann Cosgrove explained that there aren’t options to have additional beds in UHG this winter but they are working to ensure that all beds are open. She assured members that management are taking the matter very seriously and are aware of the particular pressures the hospital is under.

The meeting also heard of the severe pressure home support services are under because of difficulties getting sufficient staff numbers.

Breda Crehan Roche, Chief Officer Community Healthcare West, said they use a mix of public and private agencies but there is a difficulty in recruiting.

She said while they are delighted to recruit home care staff, many of those they take on are leaving to go to private providers and this has a knock-on impact on their ability to provide services.

“The shortage in the market is not unique to us in the West, it’s a national problem,” said Ms Crehan Roche.