More top medics to quit HSE as pension date looms
A significant number of high-earning hospital consultants are expected to leave the health service in the coming months to avail of lump sums of up to €400,000, beating the February deadline for generous retirement benefits.
The doctors are among thousands of health service workers who have inquired with their unions about the possibility of retiring to protect their 'golden years' income.
Although the Health Service Executive (HSE) said yesterday it was "impossible to predict" how many of its 105,253 staff would leave, it is already known that more than 1,300 nurses have sought information from their union about their entitlements. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation is holding a series of workshops this month and in October to outline what kind of sums are involved.
The potential exodus could lead to gaps in services if a large contingent of staff in a particular department decide to leave.
Such an exodus will leave managers, struggling with the recruitment moratorium, with a glut of vacancies.
Three times the planned number of hospital consultants retired last year after the changes to pensions were announced in the Budget.
Figures reveal that 107 of the specialists availed of retirement packages, three of whom got lump sums of over €400,000, while 25 another consultants received €330,000.
Consultants, some of whom earn over €230,000, can retire at 60. They are entitled to a payment and lump sum with ongoing pension payments of around €79,000 for those with long service.
Asked what impact retirement will have on services, the HSE told the Irish Independent that "it is important that contingency plans are put in place in advance, which is why the HSE introduced the three-month notice period policy earlier this summer.
"In this regard, in the interest of protecting services, it is critical that management have early knowledge of the numbers of staff retiring, and the business areas that will be potentially be affected by departures."
A spokeswoman said that from July 11 all staff were required to give three months' notice of their date of retirement if it is their intention to retire on or before February 2012.
She was not able to say what the savings on its wages bill will be until the "numbers are known".
It is also unclear what the pension bill will be.
The spokeswoman added: "The decision to retire by February merely accelerates the payment of retirement lump sums as they would be payable anyway at some future date.
"The payment of ongoing pensions is also accelerated for the remaining life of employees who retire. Where an employee retires prior to reaching minimum retirement age, a cost neutral actuarial reduction percentage is applied both to the retirement lump sum and the annual pension."