ALMOST a third of the psychiatric nursing positions in Waterford are vacant, a union leader has claimed.
Peter Hughes, General Secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, said it is proving very difficult to recruit and retain staff.
“There are almost 50 nursing vacancies which equates to 30 per cent of staffing,” he said.
“So obviously if someone is going to look at working in the Waterford service and they hear that service users are sleeping on the floor it’s not a very attractive place to work at the moment.
not a very attractive place to work at the moment
“It’s very difficult to recruit and retain staff. There is literally no proper community service here. There should be home-based teams or outreach teams but there is none.”
“There is no vision here,” said Mr Hughes. “They are depending on beds but if you don’t have community resources in place then the demand for beds is going to be a lot higher.”
Mr Hughes was speaking after psychiatric nurses staged a protest rally outside University Hospital Waterford to highlight overcrowding at the Department of Psychiatry.
The 44-bed unit has come in for criticism, with nurses describing conditions as “intolerable” for patients and staff. Photographs published in newspapers and circulated online showed a patient lying on the floor of the unit and chairs and blankets arranged as a makeshift bed.
The Psychiatric Nurses’ Association said that up to 10 additional people were admitted to the unit last week, along with the capacity of 44, prompting calls for investment in the unit.
“We’re at the stage now where it’s critical,” psychiatric nurse Deirdre Smith told RTÉ News. “We can’t do our jobs, we’re trying to upkeep the dignity of the patients here and be an advocate for very vulnerable people and we can’t do it at the moment.”
The staff are not to blame here
Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane attended the protest and described conditions at the unit as unacceptable.
“The staff are not to blame here; they are operating under incredible stress and distress,” he said. “Both the minister and the HSE know that is about funding and resources.
“Yet, despite this, they refuse to do anything about it. I have constantly raised the level of care at the unit, and quite frankly at this stage I am sick to the teeth of the minister’s excuses.
“What we need is not more tea and sympathy but action.”