Rehiring health staff after they retire 'will be a rare occurrence'
The rehiring of health service workers taking early retirement this month will be a "rare occurrence", Health Minister James Reilly insisted last night.
He was speaking after confirming there were no obstacles to bringing back key health staff or other public servants who leave to avail of better pension terms by February 29.
They could be rehired as agency or contract staff to fill gaps left by their departure.
However, he said last night their replacements will mostly come from new recruits who are recently qualified and looking for a career in the health service.
The prospect of over 8,000 public servants stepping down on that date -- and some of them being back in their jobs the next day -- poses yet more questions about the early retirement offer which has been criticised for its potential to create unnecessary disruption to services.
While anyone who takes early retirement and is rehired can continue to draw their pension and top it up with a wage, their overall remuneration cannot be higher than their outgoing public service salary.
It could see a hospital consultant draw a pension and also work as a locum or a specialised nurse.
Dr Reilly said the terms of the early retirement deal were different to the HSE's early retirement/redundancy scheme at the end of 2010 which barred those who availed of the package from being rehired in the public service for seven years.
It was projected that an exodus of up to 9,000 public servants, and filling 3,000 of these jobs, would result in €400m in payroll savings for 2012.
Rehiring of staff may have to be resorted to if moves to redeploy existing workers or overhaul rosters are not successful.
Meanwhile, major concern emerged yesterday about the impact of the early retirements on mental health services with around 400 psychiatric nurses expected to leave by the end of the month.
Des Kavanagh, general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, said he feared vulnerable patients at risk of suicide may not get the level of care they needed.
He warned that many services in areas such as north Dublin, Roscommon, Clare, Limerick, Monaghan and east Galway had already suffered a fall in staff due to the moratorium.
He said: "In this current environment where we are cutting admission beds, cutting staff in the community and, in places, cutting doctors, we are increasing the risk to the mentally vulnerable and the potential for suicide.
"In the old days with big mental hospitals at least there were beds, in the future, families will be trying to cope with mentally ill family members."
Already there is poor follow-up of the 12,000 who come to hospital emergency departments every year for treatment after self-harming.
"I think it's totally irresponsible of our society to be depending on the goodwill of wonderful people who established so many groups out there to work with the bereaved and work with those who are suicidal," he added.
He believed the manner in which the early retirements were managed was a "shambles".