Monday 11th January 2016
Nurses call off planned emergency department strike
INMO accepts proposals aimed at addressing overcrowding and issues with staffing
A planned strike by nurses in seven hospital emergency departments scheduled for Thursday has been deferred.
The executive council of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation on Monday agreed to accept a series of proposals and clarifications for dealing with emergency department overcrowding and staffing levels which were drawn up following talks with management at the Workplace Relations Commission over the weekend.
The new document in effect builds on an earlier set of proposals drawn up before Christmas which nurses in emergency departments had rejected in a recent ballot.
The new proposals contain a number of “confidence-building measures” as well as more details on additional new posts which are to be established for nurses in emergency units under the terms of the previous deal.
The document says that the parties acknowledged that there was a very significant lack of communication, trust and confidence among emergency department nursing staff with regard to the full implementation of the proposals for tackling overcrowding and understaffing.
“It is accepted that trust and confidence can only be restored by active,visible and constant monitoring and implementation of any agreement involving senior management staff.”
The new document provides for the establishment of a new executive forum at hospital group level involving senior management and INMO representatives which will oversee the implementation of the agreement as well as escalation protocols agreed several weeks ago to be put in place at a time of emergency department overcrowding.
There will also be a forum established in hospitals involving senior management and INMO representatives to oversee the implementation of the escalation policies at a local level.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he was pleased the revised proposals had been accpted by the INMO.
“The interests of patients are always best served through negotiation and by avoiding industrial action,” he said in a statement. “I particularly welcome the fact that the proposals contain specific measures to enhance patient safety and delivery of care.”
Mr Varadkar said he expected “a deeper level of trust will develop between hospital management and nursing staff through the active implementation and monitoring of the proposals”.
Ireland’s commercial vacancy rates fell marginally at the end of 2015
Trends throughout 2013 and 2014 ‘seem to have shifted’
Dublin had the largest number of unique commercial address points followed by Cork and Galway.
Commercial vacancy rates across the State have decreased marginally, according to new research published today.
The total number of occupied commercial premises in Ireland increased throughout 2015 from 194,642 in the last quarter of 2014 to 195,803 in the last quarter of 2015.
It represents a decrease of 0.2% from 12.8% to 12.6%.
The research is from the Q4 2015 edition of GeoView which is published twice a year. It is the third annual review of commercial vacancy rates in the State.
There were 16 counties that recorded a decrease in commercial vacancy rates between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the fourth quarter of 2015.
Kerry recorded the lowest commercial vacancy rate of any county at 9.2%, while Sligo recorded the highest at 16.4%. Both counties held the same rankings in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The review said a number of counties in Connaught and Ulster have yet to recover and are still showing increases in vacancy rates.
The average commercial vacancy rate in Ulster increased from 12.5% in the last quarter of 2014 to 12.7% in the last quarter of 2015, while the vacancy rate in Connacht went from 14.7% to 14.8% over the same period.
Both Munster (11.9%) and Leinster (12.4%) saw a decrease of 0.2% points each. Leinster’s commercial vacancy rate was unchanged with just two counties, Wexford (10.1%) and Wicklow (12.5%), recording increases over the year.
The data was published by GeoDirectory which was jointly established by An Post and Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) to create and manage Ireland’s only complete database of commercial and residential buildings.
The largest percentage point increase was seen in Leitrim where the vacancy rate increased by 0.6% to 16.1%. Conversely, the largest decrease was seen in Carlow where the vacancy rate fell by 1.2% to 11.9%.
At 49,809, Dublin had the largest number of unique commercial address points followed by Cork (25,627) and Galway (12,877).
In 2015, Leitrim, Longford and Carlow had the lowest number of commercial address points with less than 3,000 units in each county, as was the case throughout 2013 and 2014.
GeoDirectory chief executive Dara Keogh said the trends throughout 2013 and 2014 “seem to have shifted”.
“Where in the past we saw vacancy rates increasing at varying rates, we are now seeing falling vacancy rates in many parts of the country,” he said.
“Connacht and Ulster still seem to be struggling, however there are strong signs of a recovery with just 8 counties across the country showing an increase in commercial vacancy rates year on year.”
Irish building sector sees spike in growth rate
The pace of growth in the construction sector quickened in December, according to a new report.
Ulster Bank’s latest purchasing managers’ index for the sector indicates Irish building firms saw a spike in new orders, with the rate of job growth rising also.
The headline figure for the index was 58.6 – up from 55.5 in November. A figure over 50 indicates growth.
Activity has now increased in each of the past 28 months, with the latest expansion the strongest since July.
Simon Barry, Ulster Bank’s chief economist for the Republic of Ireland, said the Irish construction sector closed out 2015 “on a firm footing”.
“Overall activity trends were buoyed by a strong acceleration in both commercial and housing activity, with the pick-up in the residential arena a particularly welcome development given concerns about the housing supply shortfall. Growth in civil engineering continues to lag some way behind the other sectors though it did record a fourth consecutive month of expansion last month,” Mr Barry said.
“Overall, the December survey results indicate that Irish construction firms were reporting solid momentum as a second full year of recovery drew to a close. The new orders index continues to show vibrant expansion, with increasing enquiries for new business pointing to a healthy near-term”.
Most people do not know when fertility declines
Many incorrectly believe it is age 35
Almost eight in 10 adults do not know the age at which fertility begins to decline, a new survey has found.
According to the findings, 79% of people are unaware when fertility starts to decline, with 41% believing it starts to decline at the age of 35. However, it actually begins to decline at the age of 30.
A recent Eurostat survey found that first-time mothers in Ireland are among the oldest in Europe, with 52% aged between 30 and 39. Respondents to this latest survey were asked why they believed people were waiting longer to have children.
Some 46% of women said that waiting for the right partner was the main reason for delaying starting a family, compared to just 29% of men. At least one in three men (37%) said financial concerns were the main reason for delaying children.
The survey involved 710 adults aged between 25 and 44 and was carried out on behalf of My Fertility Check, a self-referral fertility assessment service.
According to its head of clinical services, Mary McAuliffe, the proportion of people who are misinformed about fertility decline ‘is of concern’.
“I see so many women and couples attending for fertility treatment and IVF who are surprised that it has proven so difficult to have a baby naturally. A substantial portion of adults think fertility declines at a much later age than it does in reality.
“The results really highlight the need for a nationwide, State-funded education campaign on fertility and reproductive health, particularly targeting students at third level. Young people need to be educated on the lifestyle choices that can affect their fertility, in particular, age, smoking, alcohol and health issues such as sexually transmitted diseases,” she commented.
She added that young people ‘are too optimistic about their chances of conceiving spontaneously after 35′ and they tend to overestimate the effectiveness of IVF, ‘in part due to the number of celebrities giving birth in their 40s and also due to miracle stories in the media’.
Human organs grown in sheep and pigs in US for transplants could get approval in the UK?
Human organs are being grown in dozens of pigs and sheep in the US, and the controversial technique is likely to get approval from the Home Office in the UK.
In the US, scientists have implanted at least 20 sheep and pigs with human-animal chimera embryos for the first time in pioneering experiments, with the hope that these genetically-modified beasts will develop functioning human body organs that will be fully transplantable into humans. Scientists believe these organs will not be rejected by a human body because the organs will be carrying human genetic material.
The Animals in Science Committee of the Home Office in the UK will publish this week its first legal guidelines on the use of animal-human chimera embryos. These guidelines are expected to heavily regulate this practice in the UK, while also allowing it if it is shown that there would be more benefits of the practice compared to harms.
The UK is currently facing a severe organ donor shortage. More lives are now being saved following accidents, so there are fewer donors for organ transplants. Sometimes, donors are older, and it is not a wise decision to transplant their organs. According to National Health Service (NHS), 429 people died in 2014 in the UK while waiting for an organ transplant. Experts believe the new research could reduce this number by solving the shortage of livers, hearts, and kidneys.
According to the MIT Technology Review, several sheep and pigs have been implanted with animal-human chimera embryos at labs in the University of Minnesota and Salk Institute in California over the past year.
The technique involves removing the genes for a particular organ from an animal embryo, and replacing it with human stem cells which are responsible for creating a human organ inside the animal. The modified embryo is then implanted in the womb of a pig or sheep, where it grows to develop a human organ.
So far, no animal with a human organ has born, and scientists believe it might take several years before such organs are tested for safety for use in humans.
“We can make an animal without a heart. We have engineered pigs that lack skeletal muscles and blood vessels.” said Daniel Garry, a cardiologist who leads a chimera project at the University of Minnesota.
Many animal rights groups have criticized the research, calling it ‘frankenscience’.
“Creating human-animal hybrids is bad for people and worse for animals. These animals have exactly the same capacity to feel pain and suffer as any other animal, including humans.” said Julia Baines, of Peta UK.
Bruce Whitelaw, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, has expressed his interest in the project coming to UK.
“It is scientifically fascinating and of potential commercial interest, and offers much for healthy, productive social debate.” he said.
So far, no scientific paper describing the experiments or initial results has been published in the US.