Plans to reduce HSE staff by 4,000
Up to 4,000 managers and administrative staff will be culled from the Health Service Executive (HSE) under a new proposal announced today.
The Government revealed the €400m voluntary redundancy and early retirement schemes will be offered to more than 28,000 staff members.
Some support personnel, such as chefs and porters, will also be included in the schemes - which must be applied for by November 19.
The SIPTU trade union described the move as another black day for the health service.
Paul Bell, acting head of its health division, claimed the HSE appeared to have no idea how the health service would function with 4,000 fewer staff.
"It is another black day for the health service," said Mr Bell.
"The plan prepared after consultation with the departments of health and finance envisages that 4,000 clerical, administrative and support staff would leave the service by the end of November.
"There is no provision for the hole that will be left in the service when these people have departed."
The union stressed it will not accept the backfilling of the service by contract or agency staff.
Health Minister Mary Harney maintained the schemes will secure permanent staff reduction and facilitate health service reform. They will be open to management and administrative grades and support staff who must retire or resign by December 30.
"There is general acceptance of the need to reduce the numbers of management and administrative staff in the health service," she said.
"For that reason, all applications from management and administrative staff to avail of the schemes will be approved.
"It has been decided, given that funding is available this year, to offer the schemes to support staff also. There is scope for greater efficiency in the way these services are delivered."
Under proposals, staff will be offered redundancy terms of three weeks' pay per year of service plus statutory entitlement which would be capped at two years' salary. The early retirement scheme is open to employees who are aged 50 or over by November 19.
Ms Harney said the schemes are available on a one-off basis, adding the terms were fair and reasonable particularly given the current budget.
James Reilly, Fine Gael's health spokesman, claimed the schemes were under consideration by the minister two years ago.
"Now we have a panicked Government causing chaos in the health service as workers are left with less than three weeks to decide on their future and that of their families, with Christmas fast approaching," he said.
"There is no clear plan of provision as to how the services would be reorganised to cope with the sudden loss of 5,000 staff including support staff.
"Extraordinarily, there is no mention of reducing staff numbers within the minister's own department."