300 health jobs on line as talks deadline arrives
Unions desperate to minimise losses
UNIONS will attempt to minimise health service job losses at key talks today after management outlined plans for 300 full-time job cuts.
Today is the deadline for negotiations at the Labour Relations Commission that continued at local level up to yesterday, as the Health Service Executive (HSE) West tries to avoid a €90m budget overrun.
The health employer told unions at talks over the past few weeks that it wants to axe 300 'whole-time equivalents' or achieve equal savings.
However, the figure could amount to many more workers as some of the positions are likely to be held by part-timers.
In addition to cutting payroll costs, patients are also likely to face drastic cuts in services, including downsizing hospitals, cuts in home-help services, the closure of a children's residential service and small health centres.
SIPTU, the INMO and IMPACT have put forward alternatives to job losses. The parties have discussed a range of options to cut costs including voluntary unpaid leave, shorter working weeks, and cuts in agency staff and overtime.
Initial cost-cutting plans outlined by management last month included the closure of 27 beds at Mayo General Hospital, with no overnight admissions.
Three wards at Galway University Hospital were to operate for five rather than seven days, while beds were to be reduced by amalgamating mental health service wards with those in community hostels.
In addition, the HSE sought a reduction of 255 temporary contract staff, including 92 nurses, from community services in Donegal, and the loss of at least four temporary consultant staff at Galway University Hospital.
Presentations to unions also detailed greater savings in patient transport and recycling aids and appliances and spoke of turning Galway and Roscommon into an "integrated service" area.
The Irish Independent revealed earlier this month that an earlier draft of a consultant's report commissioned by the HSE on cutting its costs in the west mentioned Roscommon County Hospital for closure.
However, the name of the hospital was taken out of the final version of the Mott MacDonald report released by the HSE. It has denied that it plans to act on this proposal although it does plan to act on other recommendations in the report.
Unions will meet management at the Labour Relations Commission offices in Dublin this afternoon for a final time. Consultations have been under way in each of the HSE West areas: Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and the Mid-West.
Unions and management agreed that all options to reduce expenditure would be explored.
These included non-pay savings, reduced hours, career breaks, unpaid leave, flexibility in the re-allocation of staff, and the phasing out of expenditure on agency staff.