Public health nursing services in Ballinasloe and Portumna are facing closure due to staff shortages the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said.
The INMO has said that two thirds of public health nursing positions at Ballinasloe and Portumna are currently vacant, and says that the HSE is refusing to fill them.
If those nursing positions are not filled, the PHNs have notified their employers, services will have to close by Friday, November 15.
The PHN services in those towns should ordinarily be staffed by six nurses, but due to resignations, reassignment, and maternity leave they only have two.
Public Health Nurses provide care in the community in locations such as patients’ homes, schools and health centres.
They are typically trained both as nurses and midwives. The alternative to public health nursing is often admission to hospital.
INMO Industrial Relations Officer in Galway Anne Burke said “No health service can function with only a third of the usual staff.
“Local management and frontline staff have tried their best to keep the show on the road, but it’s clearly reached a tipping point.”
“Services are closing unnecessarily because of bureaucratic blindness,” Anne claimed.
“Senior managers in the HSE and the regional community health organisation need to replace these staff urgently to ensure patients do not suffer.”
Without Public Health Nursing services patients in need of wound care, palliative care, and people with disabilities will be referred back to overworked GPs and overcrowded hospitals she warned.
In a formal warning sent to management, staff said that they will no longer be able to accept patients in oncology/chemotherapy, acute hospital discharges, new mothers and post natal care, or child protection/health referral without more staff.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said “This is an extreme symptom of what is happening across th country.
“The HSE’s refusal to fill vital, frontline posts is weakening services.
“Cuts have consequences and exceptionally vulnerable patients are being forced to pay the price in Galway.”
“It’s yet another example of the damaging role the HSE’s recruitment freeze is having.”