Hospital health staff ‘at breaking point’ says union

Some staff at Craigavon Hospital are ‘at breaking point’ working 13 hours shifts and suffering from PPE fatigue, according to a health workers’ union.
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“Some staff have been working in a hot environment wearing PPE that leaves them exhausted. In some cases it can cause anxiety due to wearing it for long periods. These are long shifts with wards busy and staff are spread thin.

“Staff go for long periods of time without a drink or food, as this cannot be taken on the ward and is only allowed in the staff rest areas for breaks due to infection control measures.

“Wearing the PPE for long periods can limit ability to sustain physiological needs such as hydration and accelerate fatigue and dehydration through increased sweating.

Craigavon Area Hospital.Craigavon Area Hospital.
Craigavon Area Hospital.

“Staff have been working during this pandemic for eight months now and are exhausted. They are not only looking after the patient from a nursing perspective but also. in some part, taking in a very difficult role when a patient needs end of life care.

“Most managers are very supportive and meet with staff and discuss events on a daily basis. Staff know help is also available through UNISON and have availed of our shoulder on many an occasion. The Trust has promoted a culture of it’s ok to not be ok,” said John, whose Unison branch represents around 2,500 staff across Craigavon Lurgan and South Tyrone hospitals.

“Some staff are at breaking point. They have worked in the nursing field for many many years and this pandemic has taken its toll. As we see Covid infections rising once again, managers must commit to listening to staff and making changes that will protect health and save lives.

“Some members have left due to the stress. Raising pay this year could persuade staff to stay in a job they love and prove attractive to much needed recruits.”

A spokesperson for the Southern Health Trust said: “In recent weeks we have seen a huge rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 in the community and our hospitals. As we progress into the second surge we recognise that our staff are again coming under particular strain, when they haven’t fully had time to recover from the first surge.

“This surge has brought additional challenges due to staff sickness, isolation measures and higher levels of admission to hospital wards and Intensive Care.

“Winter is approaching and Covid-19 will exacerbate the demands on our services over and above what would be normally expected in previous years.

“We fully recognise and value our committed workforce and their skill, flexibility and commitment is what the success of our response to Covid-19 depends on. We don’t underestimate how much they have given to the Covid-19 response already, both professionally and personally. 

“We have daily mechanisms in place for Line Managers to work with and support staff both in person and virtually. The Trust is also working with our Trade Union colleagues to identify and respond to issues and to address areas of concern.

“Staff can discuss any concerns or issues with their line manager. Our staff support phone line continues to be available for all Trust staff during these difficult times. The number to call is (028) 3756 2600 or internally on 62600 and a range of support services are available for staff.”



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