Graduate Nurses Must Be Kept on, Says Report


IRISH PATIENTS will have to bring a relative with them into hospital to look after them in a few years' time "like they do in Ethiopia", unless the Government implements a new report that will see graduate nurses retained in the healthcare system, the annual conference of the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) was told yesterday. 

Annette Kennedy, director of professional development with the INO, said the independent report from the Commission on Nursing Hours that looked at how a 35-hour week could be delivered for nurses recommended two nursing graduates on reduced salaries be employed to replace each retiring nurse. 

In this way she said all nurses could get a shorter working week, which they have been campaigning for since they took industrial action in 2007; young nurses would get experience; and over 1,000 replacement nursing jobs would be created every year at a time when jobs rather than more people on the dole were needed. 

She added that the report, which was recently submitted to Minister for Health Mary Harney, also pointed to how more efficient use could be made of nurses' time. At present nurses, she said, spend 20 per cent of their time undertaking associated duties like chasing equipment and cleaning. She also pointed out that many patients were spending too long in hospital before operations, which was also an inefficient use of resources. 

She pointed to the ageing profile of nurses, saying 50 per cent of all community nurses were over 50 and in general services the vast majority of nurses were over 40. "If we can't bring in new graduates . . . then we will be in trouble," she said. 

Ms Harney, in her address to delegates, said the report was "very innovative" and gave "a lot of food for thought". She will be discussing it with the HSE, but ultimately it would have to be approved by Government. 

Meanwhile, delegates also heard that about 22 per cent of hospitals and healthcare settings have still not reduced nurses' hours from 39 hours a week to 37.5 hours a week as they were required to do from June 1st, 2008. 

The INO is meeting the National Implementation Body on this issue next week and will insist that hours are reduced in all settings and that nurses who haven't yet benefited from the reduction in their hours be compensated retrospectively by pay or time in lieu. 

Originally published by EITHNE DONNELLAN. 

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