STAFF at the Urgent Care and Treatment Centre in Omagh are said to be close to “breaking point”.
A fortnight ago concerns over ‘insufficient’ staffing levels at the minor injuries unit based at Omagh Hospital were rejected by the Western Trust.
However, it has been claimed the service was operating with only half the required workforce last week, with patients getting up and walking out after waiting for up to six hours.
While there should be two emergency nurse practitioners on duty at all times to ensure that there is a permanent, full-time service, the UH was told that every day last week there was only one emergency nurse practitioner on duty.
Therefore, while this nurse practitioner is on lunch there is no cover.
It was also claimed there was also not the recommended quota of staff nurses to help assess, carry out treatments, give advice and provide support.
A source told the Ulster Herald, “Every day last week there were at least eight breaches of not seeing patients within the recommended four hour target time.
“At one stage 15 patients on the screen waiting to be seen, which at times has been a six hour wait. Patients have been getting up and leaving as they weren’t prepared to wait that length of time.”
The UCTC is staffed to accommodate 13,000 patients per year. However, it’s claimed that the local minor injuries unit is dealing with over 20,000 patients.
The source continued, “The pressure is just increasing and increasing every day.
“Junior staff are not getting the training as no one has time and it is not fair the pressure they are under.
“The staff feel completely undervalued and the patients are complaining. Staff are going off sick and things will only get worse unless action is taken.”
In response to similar concerns put to the Trust a couple of weeks ago, a spokesperson told the UH that while there are times of staff absence, all is done to ensure a “safe, high quality service” is maintained.
“The Trust would like to reassure the public that the UCTC has sufficient staff to provide 24/7 service on an ongoing basis,” said the Trust spokesperson.
“However, there are times when staff are absent for various reason planned and unplanned and staff in both Enniskillen and Omagh work as a team to deliver and sustain the services needed in the UCTC.
“The service provision from the UCTC is delivered seven days per week on 365 days of the year, staff break times are covered to ensure service continuity is maintained.”
The source described this statement as “totally wrong”.
They continued, “Enniskillen are on their knees as well and they are not prepared to send staff. Management know there is an issue yet are not dealing with it.
“There are a lot of staff near retirement age and if they leave there will be no service for the people of Omagh as the staff can not continue the way things are going.”