A state-of-the-art €3.5m facility is lying idle because of a dispute over staffing, reports Emma Connolly
THE provision of one additional full-time nurse and two full-time health care assistants is the stumbling block that’s preventing the opening of a new €3.5m, 25-bed Bandon Community Hospital.
Adjoining the existing 12-bed facility, the new hospital is described as one of the most cutting-edge community hospitals in the country, with a waiting list of people keen to get a bed there.
However, despite being fully completed before Christmas, it’s lying idle pending negotiations between the HSE and unions SIPTU and the INMO.
A Labour Relations Court hearing is scheduled for February 7th in a bid to resolve the issue with the HSE and unions, along with local Junior Minister in the Department of Health, Jim Daly helping the parties to reach a resolution.
In the meantime the facility, which includes a day room delivered thanks to the Friends of Bandon Community Hospital fundraising an incredible €240,000, remains unused.
The Southern Star was recently given a tour of the hugely impressive hospital, and saw first hand that it has been designed with the patient in mind, every step of the way.
In line with HIQA requirements, the majority of rooms are single occupancy, affording residents maximum privacy, dignity and space. Just two of the rooms are double occupancy, one of which will be used by two gents who have shared for years, and expressed a preference to continue to do so whenever the move does take place.
This person-centred approach has gone as far as to allow residents pick their own room, based on colour scheme and aspect.
In a further move to create a homely atmosphere, all rooms have been painted in a different colour, with calming views of the rolling West Cork countryside.
Flat screen TVs, exceptionally large ensuites and discreet shutters on doors which allow staff to check on patients at night without disturbing them, are other things designed to make life more comfortable from a patient point of view.
Integrated hoists in all rooms afford patients greater dignity ,while an innovative new computerised ‘wandering system’ will alert staff if a patient does just that.
Other stand-out features are a dementia specific ward called Butterfly Lane. It includes an enclosed courtyard where patients can enjoy fresh air and exercise in a safe environment.
‘Cottage Lane,’ inspired by the fact the hospital was originally called the Cottage Hospital, is another area as well as ‘Spring Lane’, inspired by the local countryside.
A separate day room and dining room are also in place, compared to just one multi-purpose room in the existing hospital.
Clinical nurse manager Marie Nyhan, who has worked there for 18 years, explained the day room is located to the front of the building to allow residents enjoy watching the comings and goings, providing greater stimulus.
Essentially, these are people’s homes at the end of the day, she said. Large assisted bathrooms also cater for residents with conditions like MS and Parkinsons, in a dignified way.
When the move does happen, the old building will be used for storage and office space.
According to sources, the INMO and SIPTU are seeking a 30% increase on existing staff ratio levels which is understood to be currently at the 40 person mark, comprising nurses, healthcare assistants, multi-task attendants and kitchen workers.
Maurice Hoare, HSE residential services manager, said they acknowledged it was disappointing they hadn’t moved into what is ‘a fabulous new building.’ ‘Talks are continuing at a senior level nationally, ahead of the LRC hearing,’ he said.
A HSE statement said: ‘Cork Kerry Community Healthcare have been engaged in discussions with the trade unions and staff regarding the transfer of staff to a newly-built 25-bed community nursing unit in Bandon.
‘Management has identified an increased staffing and skill-mix requirement, which represents in excess of a 13% staffing increase. Management has confirmed that the proposed staffing and skill-mix is safe and necessary to maintain a safe and quality service delivery to our residents.
‘The negotiations, which initially took place locally and progressed to conciliation under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, have not resulted in agreement and the matter has been referred to the Labour Court for a full hearing on the matter. The parties are continuing to engage to secure agreement with an interim proposal which is aimed at securing co-operation, with the opening of the additional beds in the context of the current demands for access to community residential care.’
INMO Industrial Relations officer Liam Conway said it was in everyone’s interest to move into the new building.
However, he said, due to the changing dynamic of the hospital with the introduction of single rooms instead of wards, staffing levels needed to be increased. ‘Our members want to deliver optimum care in a safe and effective way. We can’t jepardise patient care and safety,’ he said. He acknowledged the offer made by the HSE. However, he said INMO members were looking for a further small increase.
The biggest stumbling block is night duty staff, he said, adding that essentially what’s sought is an additional full-time nurse and 2.5 full-time healthcare assistants.Healthcare workers are represented by SIPTU.