Patients now face surgery delays as staff retire
PUBLIC patients on waiting lists for surgery are likely to face delays in hospitals due to staff leaving on early retirement next month, Health Minister Dr James Reilly admitted yesterday.
This could see patients who are scheduled for operations next month being contacted and told their appointment has been put back to a later date.
"I've absolutely no problem in saying that one of the things we have to do is slow down on elective (non-emergency) in-patient procedures for a short period of time to allow us absorb this change, then we'll do that," said Dr Reilly.
"But we will increase our productivity toward the middle of the year, because I have made it very clear that the new challenge this year is that every patient be treated within nine months."
About 3,700 health staff in various grades have indicated they may avail of early retirement incentives.
More than 1,400 have already gone since September and the rest are due to go by February 29.
Latest figures last night indicated 8,118 may leave the entire public service by February 29, up from last week's estimate of around 7,700.
But this could reduce if people withdraw from the scheme at a late stage.
While numbers will be boosted again when certain types of staff are rehired, some disruption is expected in the short term.
The impact of nurses who have left University College Hospital in Galway is already being felt by orthopaedic surgeons who are having to reduce their operating lists.
Meanwhile, Pensions Ombudsman Paul Kenny yesterday warned public servants who have applied for early retirement to have their benefits independently checked.
He pointed to two complaints he received about a previous Health Service Executive (HSE) redundancy scheme. One worker was told they would be getting 40pc more than they turned out to be entitled to.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform last night declined to comment on the potential legal costs of miscalculated pension benefits.