HSE spent €20m rehiring its own retired workers
Action came after staff refused to move
THE HSE has been forced to spend more than €20m bringing back retired staff to work in the health service -- partly due to the absence of an agreement to move staff around.
According to new figures compiled for the Irish Independent, the HSE spent €7m on re-hiring these staff in 2007, and a further €13.7m in 2008.
Although it has almost 110,000 staff, the HSE has blamed some of the high cost on the lack of a redeployment agreement with unions to move staff around.
Figures for 2009 are not yet available but, it is understood the practice of using retired staff is still ongoing where there is a crucial gap in services.
It comes in the wake of a warning from a senior HSE official that there is less money available to re-hire staff this year -- and that the lack of a redeployment agreement could impact on patient services.
In 2008, the HSE rehired 369 retired nurses, 72 support services staff, 62 administrative staff and 54 medical staff, including doctors and consultants.
Nurses accounted for the biggest proportion of the €13.7m pay bill, with €8m of it going to them. The HSE said the near-doubling of costs over the 2007 figure was due to the public service recruitment moratorium and the changing of the health services.
HSE director of human resources Sean McGrath said the absence of a redeployment agreement meant that it was only possible to move nurses and other staff from hospitals to community care after obtaining their voluntary agreement. He warned that it could have an impact on patient services at a time when the HSE was still facing a "greater demand" with a "diminishing resource".
Mr McGrath highlighted the case of the centralisation of the processing of medical cards in the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service in Finglas in Dublin. It had to go to the Labour Relations Commission to get Dublin-based staff to relocate there.
In the end agreement was reached to relocate them from their old office on the Rathdown Road in Dublin 7, which was just 5km away. "We had to go through hell to get that to happen. They were doing exactly the same job in a different location," Mr McGrath said.
But an IMPACT union spokesman said that the dispute had been about its opposition to the centralisation of medical-card services -- not redeployment or driving distance.
He said that for negotiations on redeployment to resume, there would have to be a complete reversal of the public-sector pay cuts "at the very least".
And he denied that the lack of a redeployment agreement would have an adverse affect on patient services, saying this was "emotional blackmail" by the HSE. "Our members would be mindful of minimising any suggestion of a risk to patients," he said.