5.000 HSE staff sick very day

Cormac Murphy

A SHOCKING 5,000 health service workers call in sick every day, it has been revealed.

The sick leave scandal -- which costs the HSE €284m a year -- was called 'the black hole' of the health service.

The problem even affects Minister James Reilly's own office where eight staff were sick at a cost of €140,000 in 12 months.

It also emerged today that many civil servants miraculously recover from illness when their pay is about to be cut.

New figures show an astonishing 68pc drop in long term sick leave at the magical six month mark, when pay is slashed.

The problem of workers going sick is particularly acute in the HSE.

A total of 1,483 workers were on fully paid sick leave for between three and six months, at a cost of €18.4m, over the last four years.

Critics described the problem as a "black hole" where the money could be better spent on services for hospitals and local clinics.

Information released by Dr Reilly shows illness payments to the workers based at the Department of Health and Children's Hawkins House office came to €139,354.

The data was revealed as the minister was urged to tackle the sick leave “black hole” in the health service.

Some 5,000 health service staff call in sick each day.

The latest information on the eight Department of Health employees on long-term illness relates only to Dr Reilly's office where two employees at higher executive officer grade cost €45,012 in sick leave, while a further two at executive officer grade cost €37,772.


The payments for an assistant principal officer and staff officer came to €18,964 and €11,573, respectively, while the sum for two clerical officers was €26,033.

“All of the absences are due to sick leave, uncertified and certified, and relate to staff in Hawkins House,” Dr Reilly stated in a reply to Sinn Fein's Caoimhghin O Caolain.

However, the sums are only a tiny fraction of the overall amount, with HSE and non-commercial semi-State companies now compiling similar details for Mr O Caolain.

The TD had wanted to know the number of staff within the minister's department in receipt of full salary but who have been unable to attend work for a period of at least three of the past 12 months.

Fianna Fail spokesman on health Billy Kelleher urged the minister to put in place a system to analyse sickness in more detail.

“People may be under stress at work. Systems should be put in place to make sure people are not under pressure. If there are abuses, that issue has to be addressed,” Mr Kelleher said.