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‘Enormous strain’ on NRH occupational health service

By Catherine Reilly - 14th Mar 2022

The occupational health department at the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Dún Laoghaire had difficulty providing staff with “all the services necessary”, due to pandemic pressures and increased hospital staffing. 

The “enormous strain” on the department was acknowledged by board Chairperson, Mr Kieran Fleck, at a meeting in November. 

The board heard a presentation from the department’s Clinical Nurse Manager (CNM) Ms Rose Curtis, which described the major impact of Covid-19 on hospital staff, including “staff illness, managing with reduced staff, staff being close contacts and staff unable to return home to visit sick or dying relatives overseas”. The department had medically assessed 280 new staff members who had commenced employment since March 2020. 

Currently, the NRH has 595 whole-time equivalent staff (663 employees including job-share and part-time positions). 

“The board were advised that, due to the pressure from the pandemic and increased hospital staffing, it is difficult for the occupational health department to provide the hospital and staff with all the services necessary,” according to minutes obtained under Freedom of Information law. 

The department had a part-time physician, CNM and staff nurse. Ms Curtis advised the board of a need for administrative support and another occupational health CNM and staff nurse. 

Mr Fleck stated that the board would seek to address her concerns, while CEO Mr Derek Greene said he was working with Ms Curtis on developing a review of the department and its additional resource requirements. 

A NRH spokesperson told the Medical Independent: “The occupational health department staffing consists of a CNM2, a staff nurse, administrative support, and a part-time occupational health physician. Due to the pandemic, the hospital assigned additional staff to supplement the occupational health department to provide assistance with staff screening, Covid-19 vaccination, swabbing, and contact tracing.” 

The hospital was in the process of implementing the “workforce planning recommendations from the review to recruit additional staff” for the department.

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