Sick leave at hospitals is double the HSE's 3.5pc target
ABSENTEEISM rates in some of the country's hospitals are at double the HSE's targets for clamping down on sick leave.
In Monaghan General Hospital, the rate of sick leave is just over 8pc, at a time when the HSE is trying to get absenteeism rates down to 3.5pc.
Other hospitals with a high absenteeism rate include Louth County Hospital (6.5pc), St Mary's Orthopaedic Hospital (7.6pc), Roscommon County Hospital (7.33pc) and Bantry General Hospital (6.2pc).
However, the combined absenteeism rates for all hospitals is now 4.7pc. Two years ago, sick leave was averaging 6.3pc across the health service.
Since then, the HSE has been on a mission to cut down on sick leave and reach a target of 3.5pc.
Hospital authorities have been closely monitoring sick leave and interviewing staff who take extended sick leave.
Despite the overall reduction, the HSE South has the highest absenteeism rate at 5.38pc, followed by HSE West at 4.92pc, Dublin Mid-Leinster at 4.21pc and Dublin North-East at 4.08pc.
Those working in patient and client care -- including attendants, health-promotion officers and community welfare officers -- have the highest sick leave at 6.24pc. They are followed by general support staff and nurses.
While most sick leave was believed to be genuine, some sources speculated there had been "low morale" earlier in the year following another round of pay cuts and industrial action threats.
Last night, Monaghan General Hospital accepted it had a high level of absenteeism -- the higher percentage of which it attributed to the non-nursing sector. But it said there were "genuine reasons" for the level of absenteeism and an Attendance Management Policy had been drawn up to deal with sick leave.
An action plan has also been introduced at St Mary's Orthopaedic Hospital in Cork to reduce the level of absenteeism.
Under this plan, all staff are being given "return to work interviews" following a return from sick leave. "There are monthly reviews of staff-attendance figures," a hospital spokesperson said.
In each of the hospitals with high absenteeism rates, the costs incurred through sick leave are said to be "minimal" as the majority of leave is accommodated using the existing work schedules.
The HSE said every effort was made to get staff members to return to work as soon as possible and to remain at work.