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Monday 22 September 2014

Absenteeism bill erodes HSE cost-cutting

Rate of staff 'no shows' soars as health chiefs pledge clampdown

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Published 15/04/2014 | 02:30

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ABSENTEEISM rates in the health service have risen in the wake of the Haddington Road agreement – eroding part of the payroll savings due under the deal.

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Every day since the HSE committed to generating €290m payroll savings last July, around 5,000 of its employees have missed work.

The numbers of "no shows" across the service peaked in August and October at over 4.8pc, despite HSE targets of 3.5pc.

New figures show rates were as high as 13.41pc in Lourdes Orthopaedic Hospital and 8.49pc in the ambulance service in the north east in recent months.

The overall rate of absenteeism in the HSE in 2013 was 4.73pc – almost twice that of private companies.

The sick days are costing the health sector around €230m a year, at a time when the body is warning that it will be almost €200m below target in savings under Haddington Road in 2014

The HSE has insisted it "continues to actively and robustly monitor and manage attendance across the public health sector.

"It is a key results area for management and the trend overall is downwards, despite the significant challenges facing the public health sector workforce in the context of a reducing workforce, increased working hours and higher service delivery demands, against a backdrop of reduced budget allocations and reduced take-home pay," it added.

A spokesman said that the health sector is different from other sectors because of the health and safety implications of staff reporting for work if they are medically unfit.

There is a danger of transmission of illness to colleagues, patients and clients in an environment which has patient safety and welfare central to attendance management.

However, a breakdown of the figures show that doctors are the least likely to be absent and the highest rates are among support staff.

The HSE also said the specific demographics of the health sector workforce also impact on absence rates, where at the end of 2013, over 86pc were female, with a significant portion being of child-bearing and child-minding age.

"Research both in Ireland and abroad has identified higher levels of absence associated with pregnancy.

"Thus comparisons with other sectors need to take such differences into account."

The HSE said: "It is worth noting that the Health Services' Disciplinary Procedure of May 2004 includes unsatisfactory attendance record as an example of conduct.

"It may lead to disciplinary actions and that while the purpose of disciplinary action is to help employees achieve the necessary improvements and to prevent any recurrences, in both 2012 and 2013 the ultimate sanction of termination of employment has occurred on a number of occasions arising from attendance-related issues."

It said latest available data for absenteeism in local government was 5.09pc, but it was 4.04pc in the NHS in the UK.

Irish Independent

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