Wednesday, 17 October 2018
Hospital Staff Recruitment
The Minister of State is very welcome. I welcome Professor Maura Adshead from the school of politics and public administration at the University of Limerick, who is in the Public Gallery. She is shadowing me for the day so it will be an interesting experience for both of us.
I am here to enquire about an update on the advertisement for a specialist MS nurse for University Hospital Limerick. We had this same debate last May where I was informed that the position would be advertised and filled. The report that was issued in March 2016 stated there should be three specialist MS nurses for any hospital that serves over 475,000 or close to 500,000 people. There is no specialist MS nurse in University Hospital Limerick. It is terrible for those who have been diagnosed with MS. The number of people diagnosed with the condition has increased in recent times. It is crucial that this position is filled as soon as possible. MS nurses are very helpful in terms of helping with the diagnosis, as well as helping MS patients with their medication and advice. Patients must contact a nurse in Cork or other parts of the country, which is not satisfactory. The report highlighted the fact that we need three specialist MS nurses in the mid-west but we currently have none. I am really disappointed because I was informed in May that the position would be advertised and filled very quickly yet there has been no advertisement to date so I would really like an update today.
I thank Senator Byrne for raising this issue in the House and giving me an opportunity to address it. I am advised that the University Limerick hospital group recognises the need for the appointment of a clinical nurse specialist post in neurology. The national clinical programme for neurology clearly outlines the resource requirements for the neurology service across the University Hospital Limerick site and nationally to achieve the best outcomes for neurology patients in line with best international practice. The neurology model of care also recommends the appointment of a clinical nurse specialist as part of a multidisciplinary team treating patients with MS. It is in this context that the University Limerick hospital group has taken the decision to prioritise the recruitment of an MS nurse. I understand a job application for this position has been finalised by the University Limerick hospital group for submission to the HSE national recruitment service.
It is timely for me to use this opportunity to update the House on developments with the model of care for neurology services. The national clinical programme for neurology has developed and published a model of care for neurology services, which provides a framework for neurology services to be delivered through an integrated service approach. It is intended that such services will be delivered in an efficient, equitable manner by supported, skilled professionals working in a multidisciplinary manner using a person-centred approach to care. The model of care promotes best practice in the delivery of neurology services by adopting key international standards and promoting support for evidence-based and research-led practice throughout the service. At the centre of the model of care for neurology is the role of cohesive and comprehensive multidisciplinary team care in the management of patients. The model envisages audiologists, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and other health and social care professionals working with patients and collaborating with specialist colleagues in providing optimal care for patients in the Irish healthcare system.
The purpose of the clinical nurse specialist post within this broader team is to improve and enhance the care of patients and their families by improving existing services and developing new services with regard to neurology and to assist overall in optimising the quality and continuity of care. The clinical nurse specialist will work as a key member of the multidisciplinary team in the hospital service providing physical, psychological and emotional support to neurology patients and their families. He or she will act as a liaison between community services, primary care teams and other agencies.
It is my understanding that the University Limerick hospital group will continue to work with the national clinical programme for neurology and is prioritising the recruitment of the clinical nurse specialist post within that context to progress the need for further strategic development of neurology services in the mid-west region.
I note the Minister of State acknowledged how the important the service provided by the MS specialist nurse is. The disappointment I feel is because something similar was said last May. It was said it would be prioritised. As we are midway through October, I seek a commitment from the Minister of State that he will keep up the pressure on the hospital group to advertise this post and get it filled as quickly as possible because, as the report stated, it is necessary to have three such nurses. This is only the first of those three nursing posts. It is six months on and we still have none. It is really important for MS sufferers and their families that this post be filled as soon as possible. I would like to see it filled tomorrow rather than this time next year. I would be very grateful if the Minister of State could give me a commitment that he will keep up the pressure on the hospitals group to fill this post as soon as possible.
I echo the Senator's welcome for Professor Maura Adshead from the school of politics and public administration at the University of Limerick, who is shadowing the Senator for the day. If I can tell the professor anything about her study for the day, one thing the Senator possesses, and she possesses many attributes, is consistency. I am on record previously as having said that it is one of my favourite attributes in any politician. We can all get very animated and exercised about individual issues but we tend to move on and drift more than we stay focused. It is timely that the Senator is being shadowed by an academic for the day on which I make that point. I thank the Senator for her consistency with regard to this issue. It is typical of her tenacity and determination.
HSE-speak and Civil Service-speak can be highly frustrating for us as politicians on many occasions. What does it mean that something continues to be a priority? We want timelines and deliverables. These are real people who are waiting for this service and want to have a nurse in place today rather than tomorrow. The commitment is that it will be progressed significantly by year end. Again, what does that mean exactly? This is the frustration I share with the Senator so I will certainly take up the issue and in my role as Minister of State with help from the Minister and his office, will ensure that I do justice to her prioritising of it in the House and ensure attention goes back down the chain with regard to refocusing attention on this issue to ensure there is a timely conclusion to this recruitment process.