Interviews for new A & E nursing posts at Mullingar Hospital commence this week – McFadden

Longford-Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has welcomed the news that interviews commenced this week for the 10 new A & E nursing posts, which are among the 90 extra nursing staff planned for Mullingar Hospital.

“35 of these 90 posts planned for the hospital to help relieve overcrowding are new nursing posts while the remainder is the conversion of agency staff into permanent positions.

“Out of the 35 new positions, 10 are for the Emergency Department, 10 are for Maternity Services and 15 are for across the general service. Interviews for midwifery posts were held earlier this month while interviews for the other posts, including the A & E positions commenced this week.

“The balance of the 90 nursing posts relate to converting agency staff into directly employed posts. 33 of these posts have been converted to date while a further 22 are in process of being converted. Each conversion to a directly employed positions delivers an annual saving of €11,500 per nurse. So, in this context, we are talking about substantial savings for Mullingar Hospital of almost €633,000.

“While addressing the issue of overcrowding long-term is a complex one, addressing staff shortages at the hospital is a priority.
“I want to reiterate again that everybody at the hospital is doing a tremendous job in very difficult circumstances and they must be supported. It is also unacceptable that any person should be forced to lie on a trolley, especially our elderly and most vulnerable.”

Minister Harris’ visit to Athlone Garda Station shows his commitment to upgrade of station building and facilities – McFadden

Longford-Westmeath TD. Gabrielle McFadden, has said that Minister of State Simon Harris’ visit to Athlone Garda Station last Thursday shows his commitment to the upgrade of the station building and its facilities.

“I would like to thank Minister Harris for responding to my invitation to view the existing station and to discuss the pressing need to provide funding to activate the upgrade of the station. This project is on the waiting list for a significant upgrade and existing facilities are clearly in need of modernisation for members of the force and the public.

“Along with Minister Harris, I am now going to meet with the Minister for Justice, Francis Fitzgerald, to discuss the need to have the project pushed up the priority list for further progression at the end of 2015 or early 2016.

“This is a significant capital project where work on the planning and design have already been undertaken by the OPW, based on a brief of accommodation provided by An Garda Síochána. As part of the development, a link building will be constructed between the existing Garda Station and the former Government Offices nearby.

“The construction work will take up to two years to complete with important jobs being provided during this phase.

“Separately, I’m also delighted that Minister Harris paid a visit on Thursday last to inspect the cut at Meelick near Banagher. This visit proved very productive with the Minister clearly seeing at first hand the need to undertake further remedial works in this area in order to help alleviate flooding of lands in parts of Athlone and the wider midlands.

“I will continue to work on this issue with the Minister and my colleague in Laois/Offaly, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy.”

Coveney confirms that decision on 21 year army rule due to be known in the next few weeks – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that a final decision is to be made in the coming weeks on addressing issues around a mandatory rule forcing the retirement of hundreds of soldiers after 21 years of service.

“I have raised this matter numerous times in the Dáil with Defence Minister Simon Coveney and impressed upon him the consequences of not relaxing this rule which applies to all privates and corporals who joined the army since 1994. The rule is due to take effect this year and I have had many representations on this issue from serving members attached to Custume Barracks in Athlone.

“Speaking in the Dáil last week, Minister Coveney said that agreement had been reached between all the relevant parties and the process would now be finalised in the next few weeks. Significant progress on the issue had been made in recent discussions between PDFORRA and civil and military management on the issue.

However, the issue was referred for third party adjudication as it was not possible to reach full agreement. Minister Coveney confirmed in the Dáil that the adjudication hearing took place on January 30th last and the report was issued to all relevant parties on February 12th.

“Minister Coveney said the findings of the adjudicator’s report will form the basis of the agreement. While Minister Coveney was not at liberty to reveal details at this stage, I understand that he and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, will now carefully consider the findings. Minister Coveney said he expects that the process will be finalised in the next few weeks at which stage the details of the agreement will become known.

“Naturally, this matter is causing serious concern for soldiers and their families who have mortgage and family commitments and who have the necessary skills and fitness levels to continue to serve beyond the 21 year limit. Minister Coveney explained that the measure was introduced to make sure the force was physically fit for the rigours of overseas deployment but many of those who are being forced out would typically have been 19 or 20 when they joined the army.

“We are talking here about soldiers who are still fit and active and who are worried about what the future holds for them. I hope this report and the final agreement, once publicly known, will be a positive one for all concerned.”

€100m regional jobs funding programme to open at end of March – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has been informed by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, that the first phase of Enterprise Ireland’s €100m jobs funding programme introduced as part of the Government’s regional jobs action programme will open at the end of March.

“The Government recently announced details of a new strategy to support enterprise growth and job creation at regional level. Eight Regional Action Plans will be published, starting with the launch of the Midlands strategy very shortly.

“Under the strategy, Enterprise Ireland will have a total fund of €100m for new competitive funding initiatives in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation, enterprise infrastructure and job creation. An initial fund of €50 million is to be made available.

“The first of these competitive calls, with a budget of €5 million, will focus on community-driven enterprise initiatives and how all the local players, public and private, can work together to maximise job creation.

“A second call, also with a budget of €5 million will focus on Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and how innovative new ideas or plans to support job creation in the region can receive additional funding. These first two calls will be made at the end of March.

“A third, broader, competitive regional call of up to €40 million will support significant projects or initiatives to improve or leverage identified enterprise capability in the region.”

New policies for small schools will have a positive impact on rural communities in Westmeath – McFadden

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that two new policies to support the sustainability of small schools announced by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, will have a positive impact on rural communities right across Westmeath.

“The two new policies introduced will mean beneficial changes to the staffing schedule for some small schools and a voluntary protocol for future sustainability for one teacher schools with reducing enrolments.

“In real terms, these changes will mean that from the 2015/16 school year, 19 rather than 20 pupils will be needed to retain a second teacher; 53 rather than 56 will be needed to keep three teachers and for four teacher schools, 83 rather than 86 pupils must be enrolled.

“For one teacher schools located more than 8 kilometres from the nearest schools of the same patronage and language, the number of pupils necessary will be reduced from 20 to 15. This is a significant step forward in supporting the sustainability of most rural schools.

“The new voluntary protocol for one teacher schools located within 8 kilometres of another similar school will mean that the patrons will be invited to reflect on their future sustainability and to engage on the supports available if they decide to amalgamate. No small school will close under this amalgamation policy unless the patron and community choose to do so.

“These improved retention thresholds for small schools will undoubtedly mean good news for many rural schools right across the constituency. As we all know, small schools play an essential role in rural life and I welcome these package of measures as the first step towards providing security and protecting our small schools.”

HSE gives assurance that Athlone Hospice is not closing – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that she has been given an assurance by the HSE that the Hospice in Athlone is not closing.

“I have been in communication with the HSE about concerns regarding the hospice and have been assured that this important facility is not facing closure.

“I understand that the HSE is to meet with the hospice committee members to discuss any concerns they may have.

“South Westmeath Hospice in Athlone is of paramount importance to the town and surrounding areas. The facility was built through the sterling work of the committee and the people of Athlone.

“What is provided by the Hospice cannot be provided by a nursing home, delivering as it does palliative and holistic care.

“Whether one person or four people need its services, it must remain open and any person requiring palliative care should not have to wait a number of days to access that care.”

90 new nursing posts for Mullingar Hospital long overdue – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has said the 90 new nursing staff to be recruited at Mullingar Hospital is a welcome development following ongoing concerns about hospital overcrowding and staff shortages at the hospital.

“The need for these nurses, comprising a range of specialities, is long overdue and I want to acknowledge the constructive discussions which have taken place between the HSE and the INMO.

“I have consistently raised the issue of staff shortages with the Minister for Health, the HSE and hospital management along with the the need expedite the recruitment of nurses to help alleviate overcrowding.

“While addressing the issue of overcrowding long-term is a complex one, it is also very clear that the Midlands Regional Hospital is suffering staff shortages in key areas.

“I am pleased that nurses at the coalface, who have said that staff resources must be provided to help alleviate the situation, have been listened to.

“Everybody at the hospital is doing a tremendous job in very difficult circumstances and they must be supported. It is also unacceptable that any person should be forced to lie on a trolley, especially our elderly and most vulnerable.
“I also hope strong consideration will be given to the local pool of nursing talent in the Midlands during this extensive recruitment process.”

New policies for small schools will have a positive impact on rural communities – McFadden

Fine Gael TD for Longford/ Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that two new policies to support the sustainability of small schools announced by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, will have a positive impact on rural communities right across Longford and Westmeath.

“The two new policies introduced will mean beneficial changes to the staffing schedule for some small schools and a voluntary protocol for future sustainability for one teacher schools with reducing enrolments.

“In real terms, these changes will mean that from the 2015/16 school year, 19 rather than 20 pupils will be needed to retain a second teacher; 53 rather than 56 will be needed to keep three teachers and for four teacher schools, 83 rather than 86 pupils must be enrolled.

“For one teacher schools located more than 8 kilometres from the nearest schools of the same patronage and language, the number of pupils necessary will be reduced from 20 to 15. This is a significant step forward in supporting the sustainability of most rural schools.

“The new voluntary protocol for one teacher schools located within 8 kilometres of another similar school will mean that the patrons will be invited to reflect on their future sustainability and to engage on the supports available if they decide to amalgamate. No small school will close under this amalgamation policy unless the patron and community choose to do so.

“These improved retention thresholds for small schools will undoubtedly mean good news for many rural schools right across the constituency. As we all know, small schools play an essential role in rural life and I welcome these package of measures as the first step towards providing security and protecting our small schools.”

HSE confirms Mullingar Hospital holding more local interviews to address nursing shortages – McFadden

*Recruiting process to hire nurses can take up to 4 months

Local Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has received confirmation from the HSE that the Midland Regional Hospital is holding more local interviews to address nursing shortages at the hospital.

“Having raised concerns about how slow the centralised recruitment process can be, I am glad to get confirmation from the HSE’s National Recruitment Service (NRS) that local interviews have been taking place to fill nursing positions at Mullingar Hospital.

“According to the NRS, which is responsible for the delivery of recruitment services for the HSE, more local interviews are to be held for nursing positions at Mullingar, Portlaoise and Tullamore hospitals. Given that it can take up to four months to fill a position through the NRS’ centralised service, I hope that local interviews can help address the nursing staff shortfall in a timelier manner.

“Information I received from the NRS indicates that processing times to fill positions can take up to 16 weeks. Where candidates have already gone through a selection process, the average time from offer of post, to full clearance, including Garda clearance, to issue of contract can take up to 8 weeks. However, where a panel is not in place, the process involving applications accepted, eligibility, shortlisting and interviews, a further 8 weeks can be added.

“The NRS informed me it processed more than 3,500 appointments last year, a large percentage of which related to nursing positions. The NRS says that the significant increase in the requirement for nurses has presented challenges and it has put in a number of strategies to expedite the recruitment process. These include seeking specialist nurses from overseas through a recruitment agency and designing a campaign particularly targeted at Irish graduates working in the UK.

“On a broader level, I hope that discussions currently taking place between the INMO and the HSE regarding staff shortages will be resolved without the need for industrial action at Mullingar Hospital. As I keep saying, everybody at the hospital is doing a tremendous job in very difficult circumstances and they must be supported. And I also keep saying, it is unacceptable that any person should be forced to lie on a trolley, especially our elderly and most vulnerable.”

Awareness campaign to tackle very low take-up of Govt supports for SMEs in Westmeath – McFadden

“There are 80 Government supported programmes in place to support SMEs but most people don’t know about these schemes and there is a very low take-up rate. With SMEs and regional growth taking a central focus in this year’s Action Plan for Jobs, we need to ensure that all existing businesses and start-ups in Westmeath are aware of the support on offer”, says Gabrielle McFadden, Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath.

“Today the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton launched a major awareness campaign which will consist of national and local radio advertising, online ads and the launch of a new website.

“Evidence has shown that over 90% of Irish start-ups and SMEs have a very low awareness of the schemes that are available. This is why an awareness campaign of this kind is urgently needed.

“SMEs employ 650,000 people in Ireland, and start-ups account for two thirds of all new jobs created. SMEs are hugely important to local business life in Westmeath and I would urge anyone involved in business in the area to log on to Actionplanforjobs.ie and to use the “Supporting SMEs” online guide.

“By making more businesses aware of what the State can do for them we can support more of them to start-up, grow, and create the jobs we need. SMEs are the engine of our economy providing employment for people in every town and village in this country.

“We now have a huge range of supports aimed specifically at the SME sector. Through the actionplanforjobs.ie website, with the help of entrepreneurs and business people, we will be able to get the information directly to businesses so they can apply.

“We want to see SMEs in Westmeath and across the country, not only survive, but thrive, as we work towards our goal of returning the country to full employment by 2018.”