HSE pays private eye to spy on 'sick employee'
A PRIVATE investigator was hired by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to spy on a member of staff who was on extended sick leave, it emerged yesterday.
The private eye, who cost more than €1,400, was employed by the HSE's human resources section and had to report back on the staff member's physical ability to do his job.
The probe involved "observation as part of an assessment of his capability to work," the internal information obtained by the 'Medical Independent' revealed.
The bill of €1,428.76 was paid by the HSE West, which has one of the worst levels of absenteeism and at one point saw around 1,100 staff not showing up for work on any one day.
The HSE, which is headed by Director General Tony O'Brien, said that the payout was the full amount spent on private investigators from January 2013 to June of this year.
It defended its use of a private eye, saying the decision to employ them was "driven by the need for more definitive evidence." The investigation was still ongoing, it added.
While private investigators are not regulated the HSE said that it was its understanding that the company which was hired was of "good standing."
More 4,700 health staff were on sick leave every day in the first two months of this year .
Absenteeism and sick leave is costing the HSE around €240m a year at a time when it is having to go to the Exchequer for a bailout of over €500m.
It has to hire costly agency staff to maintain services in many areas.
The level of absenteeism rose to 4.8pc last January and was only marginally better at 4.77pc in February. The rate for 2014 is 4.43pc , although its target is 3.5pc. Nearly one in every 10 staff who are off work due to "illness" do not have a doctor's certificate
The HSE said that the indications are that changes in sick leave which came into effect in March have had a "measurable positive effect" in recorded absence .
Employees who are off work on sick leave can receive up to a maximum of three months on full pay. This is followed by three months on half pay in a rolling four-year period.
Previously, a health service worker could receive up to a maximum of six months on full pay and another six months on half pay if on sick leave.
It emerged last year that four employees were sacked by the HSE for abusing the sick leave scheme. The four people in the western region were sacked for repeatedly failing to show up for work because they claimed they were sick.