STAFF must work longer hours or face pay cuts, the outgoing national director of human resources at the HSE has warned.
Otherwise, warned Sean McGrath, crucial services such as community nursing units would be forced to close as the Government continues to cut staff numbers by 2,000 a year.
He said frontline services could only be maintained by getting the remaining staff to work extra hours -- or through a further reduction in pay.
Mr McGrath was speaking three months before taking up a new role as global vice-president of human resources at the World Bank in Washington.
Asked about the Croke Park agreement, he said the cost of staff would have to be reassessed, commenting: "The Government is right to say it's going to test Croke Park to really see what it can get out of it.
"If it continues to reduce numbers, flexibilities given in the agreement will only go so far and at some point you have to look at the price of labour.
"If you lose people, you can close services or look at the unit labour cost -- that is pay or additional hours. The latter is the right way to go. It makes a lot more sense for the taxpayer.
"Seventy per cent of our (the HSE's) costs are people. That's an issue for Croke Park that will have to be addressed and is one of the big imponderables."
Mr McGrath said the ability to make savings in other ways -- including procurement -- was marginal at best, as labour costs were over 90pc.
An increase in hospital consultants' hours had already been agreed and this would have to be examined for other staff.
He pointed out that inroads had been made into cutting absenteeism, which was down from 6.8pc to 4.8pc, although the target was 3.5pc.
Mr McGrath, who had previously worked for NIB and EBS, was instrumental in uncovering a €4.5m "slush" fund that financed trips to far-flung destinations for public servants and union officials that is still being probed by the Dail's Public Accounts Committee.
He said the controversy was a lesson in the importance of private sector appointments to the state sector, adding: "It was disappointing to come into an organisation and to unearth something like that."
Mr McGrath described his new role with the World Bank as a "fantastic opportunity".
A HSE spokesman said that there was no pension or special exit package payable to Mr McGrath under the terms of his contract.