Teamwork vital to solving Ireland’s health staff recruitment challenges

Nursing Homes Ireland has highlighted the need for a number of measures to be implemented to attract people to work across the healthcare sector in Ireland.

The nursing home representative organisation highlighted the importance of healthcare settings across Ireland working together to attract staff, instead of competing against one another.

The NHI has highlighted the need for greater cooperation within the sector, a promotional and educational campaign around working in nursing homes and the need for parity between private and public nursing home funding.

Nursing homes across Ireland, like many other healthcare services, were severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which still has a negative effect on services to this day.

Nursing homes across Ireland have been at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 over the past two years or so, attempting to keep the older and more at-risk population safe from the virus.

Over the past two years, nursing homes across the country have had to contend with wave after wave of Covid-19, outbreaks inside their very own walls and a depleted workforce due to widespread infection.

Speaking to Irish Examiner, Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, highlighted the need for increased recruitment of staff and the urgent need for measures to ensure this recruitment can take place.

Amid global healthcare worker shortages and increased demand, Mr Daly said Ireland must act now to ensure that staff are in place to care for the ageing population, and to ensure that there is no knock-on effect on patients or other healthcare settings as a result of reduced staffing.

“Ultimately, we have an ageing population in healthcare generally so, whether it’s nursing homes or home care, we need more people working in what I would term the social care sector,” he explained.

Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland.

“There are challenges from time to time in recruiting for various positions, whether it be doctors, nurses, physios or others.

“The challenge at the moment in particular is in recruiting healthcare assistants,” he added.

“There’s a real significant pressure across all settings, hospitals, nursing homes and home care, around the recruitment of healthcare assistants at the moment.

Mr Daly highlighted the importance of raising the profile of those that work in social care to ensure greater levels of recruitment.

“One of the big challenges is raising the profile of those that work in social care — that’s a big challenge in terms of recruitment,” he said.

“The work is very rewarding but it is challenging and that’s been highlighted by Covid.” As a country, Ireland needs to examine the education and training system, and the possibility of promoting social care in schools and colleges, Mr Daly explained further.

“We feel there should be a national promotion campaign run by the Department of Health and the Department of Education to attract more people into the sector.

“In the private sector, recruitment is arguably the biggest challenge at the moment — it’s a challenge in every sector.

“The nursing home sector is 24/7. We see in other sectors outside of healthcare where businesses can close for some days and holidays or work reduced hours,” he added.

“When you’re caring for older, vulnerable people, that’s just not possible.

“We need trained, caring, compassionate, committed individuals to work in the sector.

“There is natural attrition with people retiring or leaving to work in other sectors, but we certainly need to make it more attractive to work in the sector.” The NHI also highlighted what it describes as a lack of parity between the funding allocated for public nursing homes and private settings, which it said is impacting recruitment.

The organisation stated that the Fair Deal Scheme sees public nursing homes take in around €1,700 per resident per week on average, whereas, in a private or voluntary home, it is around €1,000 per resident per week.

“One of the big challenges for us in the private sector is the actual Fair Deal Scheme, which is an impediment to us in terms of competing with pay and conditions with the public sector,” said Mr Daly.

“The people who are working in the private sector are doing the exact same work as those in the public so it’s important there is equal pay for equal work.

“The budget needs to be increased to ensure the nursing home sector can pay what we would feel is the appropriate rate for those who work in nursing homes.” As well as addressing the budget, the NHI highlighted the importance of introducing apprenticeships in the nursing home sector and ensuring that career pathways are available for people ready to take the next step.

In fact, the organisation is already working with the Department of Further Education on apprenticeships in the sector to encourage more people to work in the area.

“We also need to look at career pathways within the sector,” said Mr Daly.

“People might come in and work as a carer and then decide to become a senior carer or advanced healthcare practitioner. Some might even decide to go on and do nursing, for example, so it’s important to have those pathways and opportunities available.

“Nursing homes are hugely rewarding places to work and it’s a very rewarding career — you’re working with the older population bringing them joy and support,” he added.

“What we need to do as a sector is raise the profile of those working in the sector and create a greater understanding of the type of work and roles that are available in the sector.” Looking to the future of healthcare in Ireland, Mr Daly highlighted the implementation of Slaintecare and the important role that nursing homes will play in this regard.

With Slaintecare aiming to provide more care within the community setting, nursing homes will play a key role in ensuring that people can be discharged from hospitals to receive care in the community.

“Ultimately, nursing home care is in line with Slaintecare as it’s effectively caring in the community, and that’s what we need to move towards,” said Mr Daly.

“Nursing home care is a vibrant and critical element of a well-functioning health service.

“If you don’t have a sustainable nursing home sector, it’s going to have a huge impact on the older people who require residential care.

“We know, for example, that there are often large numbers of people who are unable to be discharged from hospitals due to a lack of capacity in the nursing home sector,” he added.

“If we don’t address the workforce crisis, this lack of capacity will only continue and have a knock-on effect on older people and the wider health service.

“We also need to look at the health and social care system as one entity and the integration of these sectors post-Covid, which will be hugely important.

“We are competing in some respects with the public hospitals but that’s just moving people from one part of the healthcare system to another.

“What we need to do is to attract more people to work in healthcare broadly.”