HSE workers told to pay for their own travel costs
CARE workers and public health nurses were told to pay for their travel costs from their own pockets last night as it emerged the Health Services Executive (HSE) will not repay the money it owes staff until January.
Condemning the move, union officials said it would put crucial services to vulnerable people at risk, particularly in rural areas.
Last night, an angry Health Minister James Reilly said he did not approve of the situation and that he expected the HSE to pay its workers.
The move relates to costs incurred by staff bringing care to communities either in their own vehicles or on public transport.
Those who will have to foot the bill in the short term include care workers and public health nurses in both rural and urban areas.
Staff are usually reimbursed the cost of fuel or tickets by the HSE on a monthly basis. However the executive has now told them they will not be paid for at least another two months.
SIPTU's health division organiser Paul Bell said staff would not take the decision lying down.
"We have members in home help services who are dependent on being reimbursed for their expense on petrol and diesel and many of these community carers work in rural areas," he said.
"The decision of the HSE today can only be interpreted as health workers being instructed to bankroll the HSE and this decision is not acceptable to our members and will be resisted."
The HSE, whose finances are in chaos, said it would pay the expenses incurred next January "at the earliest".
According to a letter from the HSE to SIPTU, the decision was made by the state health board's head of finance "because of the current state of the HSE finances as we approach the end of the current financial year".
The organisation currently has a shortfall of €300m for 2011 which it hopes to amend by the end of the year.