Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Hospital Staff Recruitment

10:30 am

Photo of Maria ByrneMaria Byrne (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State. We have had debates on this issue in the past and he gave me a very promising answer, but I am very frustrated at this stage because it is my understanding that, despite funding having been sanctioned for a nursing position at least eight if not 12 months ago, progress has stalled. When I wrote to University Hospital Limerick to ask it to outline the situation, I was told that the position was advertised in July. I asked why interviews had not taken place and the position had not been filled and the answer I received stated that the position has been advertised and awaits release from the national director for the recruitment process to proceed to the next stage.

I spoke to MS Ireland and people with MS and other neurological illnesses. The nursing position is crucial. In 2016 a report was launched by the hospital group which recommended that there be three clinical nurse specialists in neurology. We are currently looking for one because there are none. The clinical nurse specialist plays a crucial role in the treatment of people who have MS and other similar illnesses. I attended the meeting of the health committee last week, at which we discussed overcrowding and people on trolleys. Clinical nurse specialists help to address that, given that people are taking up beds because they have nowhere else to go as there is no one to give them the advice and support they need.

These nurses provide support and are also able to look at the medication people are taking and advise those with an illness on how to take it. They play a key role in ensuring that people are not admitted to hospital. When people are admitted to hospital due to the lack of a specialist nurse they take up beds which could be used by other people.

MS relapses cost the State approximately €16.9 million per year, according to a report from MS Ireland. That is the cost when a nurse is not in place. A specialist nurse needs to be resourced. As I said, eight or 12 months ago I thought a clinical nurse specialist was on the way for neurology patients. Many other illnesses also require such a nurse. However, to date nothing has happened which is very frustrating. I would like an update on the situation.

Photo of Jim DalyJim Daly (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Senator and acknowledge her contribution, along with that of her colleague, Senator Kieran O'Donnell, at the committee last week. She put a formidable case for dealing with the challenges that exist in University Hospital Limerick. She was not behind the door when it came to making the point to the HSE management team and the ministerial team present. Her frustration is understandable and appreciate.

I can appreciate her frustration in looking for an update on the appointment of a clinical nurse specialist, having raised the issue in the House before. Regrettably, the story is much the same. I will not read the script in deference to Senator Byrne. I will not repeat the background to this as it is all on the record of the House from a previous submission I made. As I understand it, the post is with the national recruitment centre and has been advertised. If it is okay with the Senator, I will try to assist her by making direct contact with the CEO of the HSE, Mr. Paul Reid, today and ask him to clarify why this position has not been filled. Part of the recommended model of care includes having a clinical nurse specialist, and I will not rehash that argument. The need is recognised. I would like to know why a nurse has not been appointed. I will revert to the Senator directly after my contact with Mr. Reid, if that is okay with her.

Photo of Maria ByrneMaria Byrne (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State for that offer because I raised this issue with Mr. Reid at the committee last week when we discussed MRI scanners and overcrowding. If a neurological clinical nurse specialist was put in place it would definitely help to reduce waiting lists. The more pressure we can put on Mr. Reid the better.