Midwives Seek Clarification On Staffing In €75m Unit Row

The Labour Court recommendation comes just five days before the scheduled opening of the €75 million Cork University Maternity Hospital, CUMH. Midwives, had threatened to boycott the opening unless staffing levels recommended to ensure patient safety were in place.

After receiving the Labour Court recommendation last night Irish Nurses Organisation (INO), spokeswoman Patsy Doyle said members would be seeking urgent clarification from the court this morning. The clarification refers to the Labour Court’s finding that, while nurses should co-operate, it should be within a framework that sees the compliment of qualified midwives at the hospital numbering 375.

Sixty-four student midwives are currently part of the HSE staffing structure, in addition to 304 qualified midwives and seven nursery nurses.

Ms Doyle said, in light of these facts, “the hospital is short 75 midwives” and the INO would await clarification of the Labour Court’s position before asking members to decide if they are prepared to move to CUMH.

Ms Doyle said the recommendation also said the HSE should recruit urgently to make up the shortfall in midwife numbers.

The HSE welcomed the recommendation that staff should co-operate with the move, next Saturday, which will see the amalgamation of Cork’s maternity services — the Erinville maternity hospital, the Bon Secours maternity service and St Finbarr’s maternity service — under one roof.

It said the recommendation was based on the HSE’s “assurances on safe staffing levels and that the independent nurse expert retained by the HSE to advise on staffing levels [would be] re-engaged [within] three to six months of opening, to review the situation”.

Barry O’Brien, assistant national director of human resources HSE south, said: “We look forward now to opening CUMH on Saturday and making this world class maternity facility available to the women of Cork and further afield.”

However, Ms Doyle said the disparity between what the INO saw as safe staffing levels and the HSE’s view remained.

“You cannot have 64 students deputising for qualified midwives under whose direct supervision they are employed. The impasse remains.”