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Revealed: huge scale of hospital absenteeism

So far this year, the HSE has had to pay out more than €110m to agencies that provide temporary staff.

Nurses across the country have an absenteeism rate of 5.56pc -- but it is as high as 12.5pc in Ennis General Hospital and 11.9pc in St John's Hospital in Limerick.

The rate of absenteeism among general support staff is higher at 6.05pc but it climbs to a staggering 18.01pc in Ennis General Hospital and is also high at 12.15pc at the Coombe Hospital in Dublin.

Doctors have the lowest rates of absenteeism. Their highest level is reported in the Children's Hospital in Temple Street, Dublin, at 3.03pc, and it stands at 2.5pc in Mullingar Hospital.

Cappagh Orthopaedic Hospital in Dublin has the lowest rate of absenteeism at 2.43pc.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said yesterday that staff were required to produce a medical cert after two sick days, and managers had been told to monitor absenteeism as a priority.

"Reducing absenteeism levels is a key result area for HSE managers and is an important factor in monitoring and managing our budgets," the spokeswoman said. "Combined absenteeism levels have reduced from 5.05pc in 2009."

The spokeswoman said the HSE placed a significant emphasis on the "return to work" discussion, dealing with frequent short-term illnesses.

There are also reviews and monitoring meetings between staff and their managers.

"This is followed by 'return to work' reviews where the absenteeism is ongoing, and may ultimately lead to the suspension of sick pay or disciplinary procedures being invoked," she said.

There is also occupational health and employee support sections in human resource departments that provide ongoing advice in relation to absenteeism to managers.

HSE chief executive Cathal Magee told the Dail Public Accounts Committee yesterday that absenteeism among non-medical staff was above 10pc, saying it was "in double digits".

He also confirmed it cost the HSE West around €60m a year, and said the target absenteeism rate was 3.5pc.

He added that the situation in the HSE West had worsened, and admitted absenteeism across the entire HSE had to be addressed.

Irish Independent