Some terminally ill patients are unable to receive end-of-life care from the HSE in Waterford due to a “staffing crisis”, it has emerged.
The crisis is affecting palliative care provided to people who wish to die at home, with a number of staff having been ruled out due to corona virus and other illnesses.
Staff at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) have been informed that the HSE South East Community Healthcare palliative care team could accept referrals for “actively dying patients” only.
However, the issue does not affect the hospital’s specialised wing for palliative care, a spokesman confirmed.
When contacted, the HSE confirmed there is a temporary shortage of specialist nursing staff within the care team which arose nine days ago and which it believes will be resolved within the next week.
The original internal email sent to staff at UHW offered an apology for the sudden drop in the service. “Due to the staffing crisis in Waterford Community Palliative Care Service, we can only accept referrals for actively dying patients,” it said.
All available supports and services are and will continue to be offered to patients and their families
Sinn Féin health spokesman and Waterford TD David Cullinane said there needs to be “absolute coordination” between hospital and regional HSE management to provide the service.
A spokeswoman for HSE South East Community Healthcare (SECH) said the group “wishes to advise, with regret, that there was a temporary reduction in specialist nursing staff” within Waterford’s palliative care team due to “unforeseen and unavoidable” circumstances.
She added: “It is anticipated that services within this team will return to normal levels within the next week. In the interim access to the service will be prioritised based on clinical need. All available supports and services are and will continue to be offered to patients and their families.”
She said support remains available to healthcare professionals with the aim of supporting the management of palliative care patients outside of the acute hospital setting.