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Tuesday 23 September 2014

One in 10 HSE workers calling in sick despite 'clampdown'

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Published 20/02/2013 | 04:00

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MORE than one in 10 workers are calling in sick in some parts of the health service despite promises to tackle the excessive scourge.

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New figures show the worst hit area for absenteeism is the ambulance service in the north east, where 10.53pc were absent from work over the course of three months.

The rate is three times higher than the Health Service Executive (HSE) target and reveals how measures to crack down on the hugely costly problem are failing.

The sickness findings which are now published by the HSE are more comprehensive and cover a wider range of areas of the health service following the orders by Health Minister James Reilly who wanted a "name and shame" policy to highlight the issue.

The figures cover a span of three months last year which give a wider snapshot of the patterns of absenteeism,

The second highest rate at 8.19pc was in Roscommon County Hospital but was a massive 14.45pc among some of its staff.

In the Midlands ambulance service the absenteeism rate among administration staff hit a spectacular high of 17.91pc, according to the figures supplied by HSE.

The minister told the HSE last year that it needed to call in people who are habitual non-attenders, seek a second medical opinion, and refuse to hire agency staff to replace them so the pressure goes on their colleagues.

Tough

Overall, the HSE was far off reaching its 3.5pc absenteeism target and the rates for six months of last year were worse than the corresponding months in 2010.

The average rate was around 5pc last year and its best month was September when it dropped to 4.62pc, it emerged.

The HSE in the west confirmed last year that it dismissed three people in the past 12 months in response to persistent absenteeism.

And in addition, 104 other staff have been removed from the sick leave scheme

The HSE had promised to get tough on absenteeism and said monthly and quarterly absence reports are sent to each department by the hospital manager.

This is usually accompanied by reminders of their responsibilities to manage absence and request detailed "return to work interviews" from staff involved. Absenteeism in the west has been costing around €60m a year and €284m nationally.

The problem extends beyond hospitals and also affects community health services in areas such as east Limerick, Wicklow, Dublin west, Mayo and Westmeath. The HSE has insisted that tackling absenteeism remained a "key item on hospital management team agendas".

Irish Independent

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