Monday 11 November 2019

Health Minister threatens to shame sick leave HSE workers

HEALTH Minister James Reilly has drawn battle lines with the medical trade unions in the wake of a plan to slash €130m from health services.

The minister claimed he was going to name and shame the grades of worker with the worst sick leave and absentee rate in the sector.

And he threw the Croke Park Agreement on to the negotiating table with a veiled threat that pay is "the elephant in the room".

"There are some grades in our health service and other services that are lower than 2% in sick leave and others that are four or five times that," he said.

"I intend now to publish each grade's sick leave across hospital and community care and I'm going to be talking to NGOs about their sick leave and absenteeism as well."

Dr Reilly said in some areas of the health service pay accounted for 70% of the budget and in some NGO areas 90%.

The minister was forced on to the offensive after the Health Service Executive (HSE) yesterday revealed the extent of potentially debilitating budget cuts.

The biggest hits are to be taken in agency work, overtime, home help and home care, which hits older people and disabled particularly hard, and 50,000 fewer medical card holders.

The drastic action sparked accusations of attacks on the most vulnerable just days after the Government wished every success to the Paralympians in London 2012.

Dr Reilly said that savings could not be properly addressed without looking at Croke Park, the 2009 agreement which guaranteed public sector reform in return for core pay being protected.

"As a doctor or as a minister, I want to see patients and patient services protected," he said.

Dr Reilly went on to clarify that the issue of renegotiation of an agreement with trade unions was not his responsibility.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has described the huge health service cuts as regrettable.

Some 26 million euro is to be cut from home-help and homecare services, a 5.5% reduction, while 200 homecare packages will be cut back.

Some 10.1 million home-help hours will still be made available, the HSE has said.

Managers in the sector are seeking to turn around a 259 million euro budget deficit.

The cuts sparked massive opposition from groups representing older people and the disabled as well as opposition politicians.

Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fail health spokesman, said: "This is from a man who said he would resign rather than cut services without something in their place to replace them. He cannot and must not be allowed to hide from the effects of his homecare cuts.

"Crocodile tears from Labour and Fine Gael backbenchers will not wash."

Joan Collins. left wing TD with People Before Profit/United Left Alliance, said she would support any action from the nurses union to block the cuts.

"If Labour accepts these cuts, they will inevitably have to implement more cuts that are being demanded by the Troika in the next budget in December," she said.

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