HSE spending millions on rehiring retired staff

Fiona Dillon

THE HSE is spending millions rehiring pensioners in a bid to shore up stretched services.

A total of 120 former HSE employees were rehired at a cost of €3.3m last year.

This includes €117,575 spent on bringing in six management and administration staff.

In one case, three staff members were rehired the day after they retired.

But the HSE has defended the move, saying it was done to address an urgent need for services in certain areas.

"The HSE rehired pensioners in a number of critical service delivery areas in instances where staff or skills availability, urgent service needs or recruitment processing requirements were factors which necessitated the engagement of certain retired staff to support ongoing service provision in the short to medium term," a spokeswoman told the Herald.

"These include consultant staff hired to cover their previous post while a replacement was being recruited and retired psychiatric and other skilled nursing staff where particular sourcing challenges exist."

More than half of the staff who were rehired are still working with the HSE, according to the information under the Freedom of Information Act.


Seven doctors who returned to work had taken early retirement or voluntary redundancy.

The new figures show that most of the expense was incurred rehiring 34 medical and dental staff, which accounted for €2.1m of the spend.

Fianna Fail leader in the Seanad, Darragh O'Brien, pointed out that that substantial pension payments would be paid out to those retiring at a senior level within the HSE.

The fact that retired staff are being rehired shows that "redundancies must be targeted," he said.

"If people are let go, and we require their skills and no-one else can do it, they shouldn't be selected for early retirement," he told the Herald.

"The whole crux of this is not having a targeted approach to early retirement," he said.

Senator O'Brien said that there must be more "succession planning" whereby if somebody is due to retire, there should be somebody trained up to take their place.

"If we are depending on an individual for one service, then that is a weakness in itself because what happens if they retire or become sick," he said.

The figures on rehired staff were supplied to the Medical Independent.

The health service saw a significant exodus earlier last year with staff opting to retire before the end of a "grace period" which would have seen them hit with a pension cut.

Health Minister James Reilly previously told an Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children said that the impact of the retirements under the "grace period" posed significant challenges given that some 4,700 people left the sector before the end of February last year.

The retirements before the February deadline last year did not come under any specific voluntary redundancy or early retirement scheme, so no specific re-employment restrictions applied.