INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
EASTERN HEALTH BOARD
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
PSYCHIATRIC NURSES ASSOCIATION
1. Claim by the Unions for the appointment of extra staff on night duty.
2. The dispute concerns staff at the Grosvenor Road "high support" hostel which operates under the aegis of the Eastern Health Board. It is a residential mental health facility catering for twelve residents. The hostel is currently staffed at night by one nurse who is on duty from 8.00 p.m. to 8.00 a.m. The Unions claim that another nurse should be assigned to night duty at the hostel because of concerns for the personal safety of staff. Management rejected the claim. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 23rd July 1996. Agreement was not possible and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 9th August 1996. A Court hearing was held on the 16th September 1996.
3. 1. Younger patients are in residence now, who need more extensive special care than when the hostel opened.
2. One nurse on night duty is insufficient to deal with all eventualities which may arise. The nearest psychiatric hospital is some distance from Grosvenor Road and, therefore, there is no immediate access to back-up resources.
3. There have been specific incidents at night when staff on night duty were seriously concerned for their safety (details supplied to the Court).
4. While the Board subsequently took additional security measures it has refused to appoint extra staff to night duty. Inadequate staffing levels provide an unsafe working environment.
5. In view of the potential hazards associated with the work of the night nurse it is essential that another nurse be appointed in order that a secure working environment be provided to enable staff provide the appropriate care to residents.
PSYCHIATRIC NURSES ASSOCIATION
4. 1. Nurses at the hostel have a serious concern for their safety while working alone at night. Some residents suffering from serious mental problems are in residence. The Board is required under the Health and Safety legislation to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe working environment for its employees. The hostel is unsafe without a second employee on night duty.
2. Arising from the changing resident profile at the hostel and the often unpredictable nature of violent incidents, reasonable precautions must be put in place to safeguard staff.
3. The Union acknowledges that the Board took extra security measures following incidents at the hostel, however putting in place a telephone alarm system is insufficient. Provision of a second staff member on night duty is essential to provide a safe and secure working environment for staff to enable them to ensure adequate care for the residents.
5. 1. Since the hostel opened in 1989, the age profile of residents has not changed significantly and only 3 residents have not been at the hostel previously.
2. The number of incidents of a security/safety and health nature which occurred at the hostel in the past seven years have been minimal. The Board subsequently installed a security system linked to a security firm which gives internal and external assistance to staff.
3. Where service needs required it an increase in staffing was provided. This was done from 9th December 1993 to 23rd March 1995 when two nurses were rostered for night duty.
4. The facility is not isolated and is close to a Garda station.
5. Concession of the Unions' claims is likely to have repercussive effects throughout the Board's other 20 hostels.
6. The Board is always prepared to examine staffing levels on an ongoing basis as services change. This has been reflected in Grosvenor Road when extra staff were allocated. It should be noted that 3 of the Board's hostels have 2 staff on night duty. These staff levels are based on the needs of residents particularly their dependency level. The Board is satisfied that the Grosvenor Road facility is adequately staffed.
The Court has fully considered all of the views of the parties as expressed in their oral and written submissions. The Court does not recommend concession of the Unions' claim at this time.
There is an obligation on the Board to ensure that there is a safe working environment for the staff whilst at the same time providing the maximum care for the patients.
The Court recommends that in consultation with the staff the Board continuously monitor and review the situation, to ensure the staffing levels are such as to provide a safe and secure working environment for the staff and the necessary care for the patients.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.