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‘Urgent’ measures required for staff’s mental health – Saolta

By Catherine Reilly - 06th May 2022

Measures are “urgently” required to improve the mental health and wellbeing of staff at Saolta University Health Care Group, its executive council agreed. 

The high toll of the Covid-19 pandemic on staff was a source of major concern at the executive council’s meeting in February, according to minutes seen by the Medical Independent under Freedom of Information law. 

“Concerns were raised again about the mental health of the workforce in light of the additional demands that have been placed on staff since March 2020. Many present reported seeing signs of burnout in all cohorts of staff, with increased conflict among staff, patients and families. It was felt that steps must be taken urgently to improve the mental health and wellbeing of staff in order to protect and retain staff.” 

In addition to supports already in place, such as the employee assistance programme and online stress management programmes, other suggestions were made including staff “wellness days”, staff “fun days”, and various networking events. 

“The taking of annual leave was also mentioned as being essential to the improvement of staff health and wellbeing. While releasing staff to take annual leave may put pressure on service provision, it was agreed that staff should not be prevented from taking any annual leave that they are due.” 

It was agreed that further measures to help staff would be investigated. In addition, the meeting heard that a Saolta Group plan “to recognise the immense effort made by all staff during the pandemic” was underway. 

A spokesperson for Saolta said it “encouraged all managers across the sites to facilitate annual leave during the pandemic in line with national HR guidance”. 

The HSE has acknowledged difficulties releasing staff for annual leave and issued a circular in February on carryover of annual leave. 

“We are keenly aware of the impact both the Covid-19 pandemic and the cyberattack have had on our staff,” outlined Saolta’s spokesperson. “The Saolta Group has carried out a number of staff surveys which have provided specific information on what our staff require in terms of supports and wellbeing. We are now progressing work at each hospital site to address all issues raised.” 

According to the spokesperson, the Group has highlighted and promoted all existing staff wellbeing initiatives, including the wellness recovery action plan, a two-day programme which promotes “new and proven ways of navigating life’s challenges, and to feeling better and more confident in your ability to manage your own wellbeing”. 

Other supports included occupational health, the employee assistance programme and organisational health initiatives. 

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