€25,000 an hour spent employing expensive agency hospital staff
The HSE is paying out over €25,000 an hour on nurses, doctors and other medics to provide extra cover as it battles to cope with a worsening staff shortage.
New data secured by the Sunday Independent, shows the issue of expensive 'locum' payments, is now a major factor in driving up rapidly escalating health costs. Agency staff are sometimes hired on a short-term contract to fill staff shortages and provide essential back-up cover.
The arrangements usually cover nurses, midwives, and junior doctors. The number of nurses and newly trained doctors emigrating remains an ongoing problem.
Last year, the HSE was forced to spend more than €207m on a range of agency staff to fill vacancies in acute hospitals.
This is up from €164m in 2013. Official figures show Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda is now the highest spenders on agency staff -with an overall bill of €14m in 2015. This means it spends an average of €41,000 daily on a range of back-up medical personnel.
Liam Doran, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said it is "utter madness" that the HSE is continuing to pay inflated rates to agency staff.
"Every hospital is now relying on agencies as a stop gap measure - yet it's at least 28pc more than the cost of employing a particular nurse."
Meanwhile, soldiers and other Defence Forces personnel are demanding a major pay hike following the concessions made to gardai.
They're also seeking "full access" to various industrial relations bodies such as the Labour Court as an independent forum for their demands. This would mark a dramatic turnaround in the future relationship between the Defence Forces and the government.
Among the controversial proposals is that PDForra which represents more than 7,000 soldiers, sailors, and aircrews - be allowed full membership of ICTU.
Gerry Rooney, PDFORRA general secretary, said it is now "unconscionable" that members of the Defence Forces would not be granted the same rights offered to the gardai.