Wednesday 13 December 2017

Surge in number of HSE managers - as public health nurses dwindle

Liam Doran Picture: Tom Burke
Liam Doran Picture: Tom Burke

Anne-Marie Walsh and Eilish O'Regan

The number of Health Service Executive managers soared by 9pc at the same time as the number of public health nurses fell by 0.1pc last year.

Figures revealed in the HSE's 2016 annual report show there were 1,327 managers in grade eight or above in December 2015.

By the same month last year, there were 1,445 - an 8.9pc hike.

In the same period, the number of public health nurses dropped by 0.1pc from 1,501 to 1,499, while staff nurse numbers were pretty stagnant. They only rose slightly from 24,748 to 24,768, an increase of 0.08pc.

The figures in the publication 'Building a better health service' show the growth in the bloated top level of the health service is continuing unabated.

Managers push up the pay bill considerably as grade eight staff earn between €65,000 and €75,000 a year, while general managers' salaries range between €65,000 and €79,000.

Last year, it emerged that the number of senior managers had increased by almost 40pc since 2012, but nursing staff levels had fallen by more than 3,000 since 2007.

There were twice as many directors than there had been in 2012.

Read More: Nurses 'should get extra pay to offset cost of renting in capital'

General secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Liam Doran said the HSE's "priorities of need" were all wrong in terms of staffing.

He said the health service was over-managed and centralised and disempowers frontline professionals from doing their job.

"These figures are further conclusive proof of the recruitment and retention crisis which requires immediate measures in the interests of patients who use our health service," he said.

As well as being recruited, it is possible that some of the lower grade managers may have been 'acting up' in more senior roles and then given these jobs.

When the HSE started more than 10 years ago it became bloated with managers. But a recruitment embargo was introduced by the government and it trimmed down its top-heavy structure.

Defended

It has replenished the higher ranks in recent years - although several of these are new posts in hospital groups that did not exist pre-recession.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher has said the only thing to have increased at a faster rate than managers in the health service was the number of patients waiting for treatment.

The HSE has defended the recruitment of managers, saying they are needed for its reform programme including the creation of new hospital groups and community healthcare organisations.

However, it has been trying to woo nurses to take up vacant posts. It brokered a deal worth more than €20m with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation earlier this year in recognition of recruitment and retention problems after the union threatened industrial action. The union is currently seeking pay rises of up to 12pc at talks on a new public sector pay deal in further recognition of staff shortages.

It wants this to be achieved by putting nurses on the same pay scale as other health professionals with degrees.

However, Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe has ruled out special deals, as have some unions.

In a blog, Impact said there are so many groups seeking deals on this basis that if they all got up front money as a solution, "we'd soon be in fiscal outer-space - with nothing left for the bulk of public servants".

Irish Independent

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