Hospital therapy staff exodus is ‘staggering’

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MORE than a third of occupational therapy and physiotherapy staff at the General Hospital resigned in the space of ten months, a freedom of information request has revealed.

A total of 24 workers handed their notice in between January and the beginning of November last year, leaving 50 occupational therapy and physiotherapy staff at the Hospital as well as nine vacancies, according to the FoI response seen by the JEP.

Constable Andy Jehan, who has raised concerns over the state of rehabilitation services in the Island and is campaigning to reopen Samarès Ward, called the exodus ‘staggering’.

Samarès Ward had 28 beds for people needing physical rehabilitation, but in 2020 the Health Department closed the ward and opened 12 beds in Plémont Ward at the Hospital with shorter stays provided.

Mr Jehan said he believed the move to Plémont Ward had contributed to the high staff turnover.

‘People are on a general ward with no privacy, a lack of equipment, and staff there are trying their very best in very difficult circumstances,’ he said. The level of turnover ‘raises alarm bells’, Mr Jehan added.

The Constable called current rehabilitation services in the Island ‘not good enough’, saying he had witnessed first-hand the problems people using the services had faced.

‘Frontline staff are working under incredible pressure,’ said Mr Jehan. ‘I worry about their health and wellbeing.’

A petition by Jean Lelliott – signed by almost 1,500 Islanders since it was launched at the end of August – has called for the new hospital to have the same equipment and specialist staff that used to be based at the ‘world-class’ facility at Overdale. In its response to the petition the government denied that services for stroke patients had been cut.

States Members are to debate a proposal from Senator Steve Pallett in the Assembly next week, calling for the Island’s rehabilitation services to be immediately reinstated at Samarès Ward. He has also asked that a ‘temporary purpose-built’ facility be constructed, while the ward at Overdale is demolished to make way for the new hospital. The government has amended this proposal, with Health Minister Richard Renouf removing Samarès Ward and saying that a standalone unit was ‘unlikely to be the most effective way of delivering rehabilitation services in the 21st century and particularly in the context of Jersey’, instead arguing for integrated services.

Mr Jehan also raised concerns about the ‘worryingly high’ level of staff vacancies across Health and Community Services, with 353 posts vacant as of November. In the States that month, Deputy Renouf denied that there was a ‘recruitment crisis’ in HCS, saying the organisation had a vacancy rate of 5.3%.

But Mr Jehan said this figure was over 14%, when compared to the 2,485 total number of employees in HCS, according to recent figures.

‘Health is not in a good place,’ said Mr Jehan.

The FoI response also showed that 513 nursing and administrative staff were signed off sick – a period of continuous absence longer than three days – in the first nine months of last year, with the response also highlighting that there were 668 nurses employed across HCS, or who worked in the vaccination and testing centre but were not employed by HCS.

‘I recognise the good work that is done on the front line and we have got to be grateful for those people who continue to do their very, very best. I do feel they are being let down by senior management and political leaders,’ said Mr Jehan.

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