Friday 24 February 2017

HSE plans €16m staff drive to fill 'critical' gaps

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

MORE than 500 of the 4,000 staff leaving the health service are set to be replaced at a cost of €16m.

The HSE yesterday confirmed that it would have to replace one in 10 of those retiring to avoid pension cuts, in a bid to shore up gaps in services.

It outlined plans yesterday to hire a limited number of workers in roles that cannot be replaced from within the public service.

Despite the ban on recruitment in the public service, Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has said that up to 3,000 staff may be hired.

This is a special provision to fill gaps in services due to a glut of retirements before an end of February deadline, after which public sector pensions will be cut in line with pay.

Demands

However, any increased costs due to recruitment will inevitably reduce the payroll savings being sought to satisfy demands from the EU, IMF and ECB bailout team.

Hospital consultants and midwives are among those with special skills who will be prioritised in an attempt to keep services running smoothly.

Nurses are the single biggest group retiring, and 194 will be replaced, including nurses working in maternity and paediatrics.

A total of 48 of the 57 hospital consultants who are expected to go will also be replaced.

The exceptional recruitment will take place despite a ban on hiring across the public service that has been in place for three years.

A total of 4,326 staff have indicated they would retire in the last few months, according to HSE chief executive Cathal Magee. By the end of last month, over half of these had already gone.

Mr Magee told a Dail Committee that €16m had been set aside to pay for hiring staff into "critical service" posts that could not be filled by redeploying staff.

He said the need for replacement staff would be prioritised in services including emergency care, intensive care, critical care, neo-natal care and maternity services. Most of the retirements are among hospital staff, as well as those working in mental health, disability services and caring for the elderly.

"The HSE's key priority at all times is to maintain critical frontline acute services," said Mr Magee.

He said the HSE also aimed to reduce the impact on services by measures including redeploying staff and reducing absenteeism, which were promised in the Croke Park agreement.

Staff will also be asked to work extra hours and postpone taking their annual leave, and agency workers used to fill gaps.

Irish Independent

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