Saving lives is not my job says Howlin
'Well-paid managers' must ensure lives are safe
PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said the responsibilty to ensure lives are not lost as a result of a mass exodus from the health services is not his, but that of highly paid frontline managers.
Mr Howlin said well-paid local managers in the health service must ensure the exodus is micro-managed successfully.
In the week in which health insurance company VHI increased their premiums by up to 9 per cent -- a decision which will put increased pressure on the public health services -- Mr Howlin sought to lay responsibility for the delivery of health services at the door of the managers.
In relation to the entire mass exodus from the public sector, he said: "Bluntly, I am most concerned about the health sector. I think there are robust plans in most other sectors. But the diversity of the health sector is such that I think it provides the biggest challenges."
Mr Howlin said that media commentary in recent days that lives will be lost or at risk by these staff departures is "shocking."
He said: "I would ask people delivering the services on the frontlines, it is their responsibility to ensure that doesn't happen. It is shocking to hear that commentary."
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"The one thing I don't want is for me or the Minister for Health James Reilly to be sitting in his department getting calls from individual hospitals. Hospital managers are well paid and they have to manage and they can see what is coming down the strait," he added.
In an interview with the Sunday Independent, published today, Mr Howlin said he is most concerned that cuts in staff numbers will be most felt in the health sector. At the end of the month, over 7,700 people will retire early from the public service, with about 3,500 of them leaving from the health service.
In Cork yesterday, Dr Reilly said he would be keeping a close eye on the exodus to protect patients as much as possible. "That's why... we have abolished the board of the HSE. That's why the HSE itself will cease to be by the end of this year, and that's why there will be much more responsibility and authority residing in the department," he said.
"I'm elected by the people to look after the health area for their good, and not to their detriment, so I will be very much keeping a very close eye on all of this, as will the Taoiseach, who is very involved," Dr Reilly added.
Mr Howlin, in a significant shift to his previously stated position, also said that increments are now under consideration for removal as part of the Croke Park review.
"Everything will be looked at. Everything is on my agenda. Let's look at increments, nothing goes off my agenda. The quantum to be paid in 2012 is €90m. By and large it goes to people at entry level. Two-thirds of people are already out of increments because they are at the top of the scale. I am open to a debate on these matters," he said.
Separately, on Tuesday, Mr Howlin will bring to Cabinet the long-anticipated Whistleblowers Bill, which will apply to both public and private sector workers.
The intention is to provide a universal overarching legal charter to protect employees who speak out against fraud, corruption and malpractice in the workplace.