Thursday 29 September 2016

Editorial: Contracts could help to solve health crisis

Published 28/08/2014 | 02:30

Staff in the health services here are under a lot of pressure
Staff in the health services here are under a lot of pressure

Among the many challenges for the health services is a frequent lack of staff. The recruitment embargo in place since March 2009 was necessary to get national finances back on track.

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But it has hit the health services especially as depleted numbers of front-line staff have struggled to maintain some level of acceptable service.

And one of the ironic unintended consequences of the ban on hiring staff has been the reliance on expensive agency personnel to plug necessary gaps. In a curious way this has been counter-productive because such agency workers usually cost more in the short term - a reality which further angers beleaguered permanent staff.

Now another idea - the hiring of contract staff in the health services - appears to be under serious consideration. It is an idea not without its own problems but these difficulties can be overcome.

The prospect may be looked at askance by the tight-fisted officials in the Public Expenditure Department. It could be seen as the thin end of the wedge being used to remove the recruitment embargo which will remain necessary for some time to come.

It will also pose difficulties for union leaders trying to defend their members' permanent and pensionable status. The permanent staff already feel unappreciated and apprehensive about the future.

But contracts can bring benefits to both sides. They could prove a better value option and also offer valuable work experience to newly-qualified personnel which could prove a springboard to a permanent job.

There may well be other unforeseen problems attaching to the idea. Given recent history, it is likely that suspicion will be an impediment on both sides of the equation.

The only remedy for suspicion is dialogue and there are many structures to allow such dialogue go ahead. It would be a positive development to see such discussions begin relatively soon. The new Health Minister Leo Varadkar could have a direct role to play here. He has come into the job with considerable goodwill and made a fair start so far.

So, all in all, this is an idea worth considering in some detail.


No excuses - children must 'belt up' every time

It seems astonishing that some motorists refuse to place children in appropriate restraints before taking to the road.

One in every three children who die in traffic collisions is not securely strapped in or wearing a seatbelt, new research from the Road Safety Authority shows. Many of these deaths could have been avoided.

It's far too common a sight to see children standing in the rear seats of cars, chatting to the driver up front. In the event of a collision, their little bodies will fly through the air at great speed, smashing into the dashboard or through the windscreen, costing some of them their lives.

The 'lucky' ones may be left with appalling and life-long injuries.

Some would argue these victims' parents or guardians have blood on their hands. They are certainly guilty of an appalling lack of judgment. After all, what trip is so essential that a few moments cannot be taken to ensure a child's safety?

Bobbie Connolly, herself the victim of a road collision when she was just 10, says it best: parents who refuse to belt up their children are not only foolish and careless, but "downright selfish".

Irish Independent

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