Up to 20 beds are closed on any given day at Altnagelvin due to staff shortages with the Western Trust reporting a 50 nurse deficit in band 5 staff despite making over 100 fresh appointments recently.
Geraldine McKay, the Western Trust’s Director of Acute Services, told members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Health and Community Committee that one of the health authority’s “greatest challenges” was nursing vacancies.
The senior health boss revealed that higher pay rates for nurses in England and Wales were luring many of our homegrown nurses overseas.
“There’s a huge disparity in what nurses are paid in mainlain UK and here. Nurses tend to leave,” she said.
Dr. Bob Brown, the Trust Director of Primary Care and Older People Services, however, predicted that in less than half-a-decade the local health care provider is likely to have made significant headway in addressing the nursing shortfall, which has already decreased from 70 to 50.
“The difficulty in attracting nurses is related to our ability to access nursing graduates,” he said.
Dr. Brown said that, with 300 nursing undergraduates enrolling at the Ulster University Magee College campus in September, and with this intake expected to continue at that level over the coming years, “in five years we should be in a better place”.
Mrs. McKay indicated that the Trust continued to struggle to attract enough doctors onto its staff payroll.
This overreliance on locum doctors, however, was a “slightly different issue”.
“The medical school is in Belfast. They go there young, marry, and settle there,” she explained.
“That’s why the post graduate medical school at Magee is very important for us,” she added.