Northern Ireland news

40 nursing staff quit scandal-hit Muckamore Abbey Hospital

Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim has lost 30 per cent of its nursing workforce since January since suspensions, resignations and retirements. Picture by Mal McCann.
Seanín Graham

ALMOST 40 nursing staff at the scandal-hit Muckamore Abbey Hospital have resigned or retired since January prompting fears among families about the facility's future.

Figures obtained by The Irish News also show that several managers have retired during the same time period, during which an unprecedented PSNI investigation into abuse allegations has escalated.

The Belfast health trust, which is responsible for the Co Antrim regional facility, provided a breakdown of registered nurses and senior nursing assistants who had voluntarily left their jobs since the beginning of the year.

Together with staff suspensions, Muckamore has now lost 30 per cent of its 250-strong nursing workforce.

The hospital is currently heavily reliant on costly English agency nurses.

A trust spokeswoman confirmed staff departures since January 2019 as follows:

:: 12 nurses have resigned

:: 18 resignations among senior nursing assistants

:: Six retirements by senior nursing assistants

:: Nurse retirements (as fewer than five cannot provide exact figure)

::Management retirements (fewer than five)

Read More: Timeline of unprecedented Muckamore abuse investigation

As of yesterday, 74 registered nurses remained in post at Muckamore.

The most senior figure in the trust, chief executive Martin Dillon, announced his retirement last month and singled out Muckamore as one of the most difficult issues he faced during his tenure.

Meanwhile, it is understand that a 15 per cent pay rise incentive being offered to nurses in other health trusts to temporarily work in the hospital has met with a poor response.

Relatives of patients last night expressed concern about Muckamore's sustainability in a setting where they say continuity of care is "vital" for patients who suffer from severe learning disabilities.

Read More: Man (33) arrested over Muckamore Hospital abuse allegations

To date, a total of 36 staff linked to physical assaults and neglect of vulnerable patients have been placed on 'precautionary suspension'.

The development comes as police yesterday arrested a 33-year-old man in connection with the massive probe.

Glynn Brown, whose son Aaron is a patient at Muckamore and allegedly suffered more than 100 incidents of ill-treatment by staff in 2017, said the severe staffing shortage was placing huge pressures on the current workforce.

"These figures paint a bleak picture and you have to ask how any organisation could withstand this haemorrhaging of its workers," he said.

"There are some very hardworking staff in Muckamore but they are being permanently squeezed. This isn't good for them and it isn't good for the patients."

The Belfast trust has repeatedly apologised for the distress caused by the abuse investigation, with Mr Dillon insisting they had worked "tirelessly" " to ensure existing care is "safe and compassionate".

Solicitor Claire McKeegan of Phoenix Law is acting for more than a dozen families of patients affected by allegations.

She said the health service's response to the staffing shortfall must be "urgently reviewed".

"The trust must implement immediate change from the top down and that must include a new management team and structures," she said.

"Closing a hospital is not the answer to this crisis. Investment must be made in a new team who are equipped to deal with these patients and assist in their resettlement where possible into suitable accommodation in the community.

"The lack of resources in a critical hospital which is the only model of its kind here in Northern Ireland would not continue in any other part of the UK."

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