Hiring retired HSE workers costs €11.6m
RETIRED health staff who were re-employed by the HSE were paid nearly €11.6m last year, new figures revealed yesterday.
The 686 retirees included 462 nurses and 45 doctors as well as clerical workers, porters and social workers.
The doctors, who retired on lucrative pensions, were hired as locums and earned around €40,000 each.
The bill for 2011 was lower than in 2010 when 773 retired health staff who returned to work shared €14.6m in payouts.
The bill for re-hired staff in 2011 comes in the wake of criticism over the return of large numbers of workers across the public service who availed of early retirement this year to protect their pensions.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has yet to finalise figures showing how many of these staff were re-hired but a spokeswoman said: "Retired staff are deemed to have the necessary skills and experience to provide cover for critical vacancies on a temporary basis.
"These staff members are paid in line with Revenue Commissioner requirements/ regulations."
More than 4,000 left the health service under the early retirement scheme. The department confirmed yesterday that one assistant secretary, who retired on normal age grounds, returned to take part in a tender evaluation committee last year and was paid €1,200.
"No other retired staff of the department were engaged in any capacity," she added.
A spokeswoman for the National Maternity Hospital said two obstetrician-gynaecologists, who took early retirement, stayed on to provide locum cover in their rotas while the appointments were being processed. These doctors provided "vital" frontline services and are critical in respect of levels of activity and being experienced in recent years.
None of the retired staff in the Mater Hospital, Temple Street Hospital or the Rotunda maternity hospital were re-hired.
St James's re-hired two consultants: both posts were highlighted to HSE and approved as being necessary.
There was no response from Beaumont Hospital or Crumlin Hospital.
Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said he believed "not many" nurses were re-hired.
Some vacancies in midwifery, special care units and public health posts will be filled by new recruits. However, most of the 1,500 newly qualified nurses who were registered at the end of the year had emigrated, he added.
Commenting on re-hiring of retired staff, Des Kavanagh of the Pyschiatric Nurses Association said mental health services are suffering from under- staffing and few opted to be re-hired. "Those who did come back are just working one or two days a week. Most would choose not to return," he said.
There are around 104,000 people employed by the HSE.
Beaumont Hospital said from 35 retirees, it rehired one consultant half time for six months and two front line staff for a month and a week respectively.
The retiring consultant was rehired on a half-time basis for a period of six months at cost of around €78,000. A clinical nurse manager was rehired for one month to cover the hospital's warfarin clinic where for unrelated reasons there was a short term shortage of staff.
The cost was minimal, a spokesman said. Finally a phlebotomist was rehired for a period of one week where existing vacancies, retirements and personal circumstances caused a short-term difficulty in the department.
Again, the costs were minimal, a spokesman claimed.