Health Managers Caught In A Cleft Stick

Hard pressed health managers are caught in a cleft stick forced to choose between trying to recruit sufficient frontline staff to maintain services, while working within the virtual staff recruitment moratorium and keeping within their existing budgets, writes Maureen Browne.

Maureen Browne
Maureen Browne

And, as things stand at present, they can expect little relief next year, despite, for example, high profile announcements of funding for 1,000 additional nurses, which they say will be of only limited short term value as it will go mainly on conversion from agency staff.

They also doubt that even if they get the go-ahead from the HSE,

it will be possible to recruit additional doctors, nurses or allied health professionals, because of salary cuts and difficult working conditions.

At the time of writing, the HSE was not in a position to provide details on the current number of nursing vacancies, the impact on the current crisis of the 1,000 additional nurses announced in the budget, the real increase this would represent or if it would be possible to recruit the additional nurses.

Figure given at the Health Service Joint Council meeting in October 2016 showed an annual spend of in excess of €52 million on nursing agency staff by HSE and Voluntary Hospitals.

However, the INMO agrees with the views of managers that the funding for 1,000 additional nurses will go mainly on the conversion to agency staff.

Figures given at the Health Service Joint Council meeting in October 2016 showed an annual spend of in excess of €52 million on nursing agency staff by HSE and Voluntary Hospitals

As far as consultants are concerned, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association President, Dr. Tom Ryan has warned that there are shortages of consultants in practically all specialties, with only about two-thirds the number of consultants recommended in the Hanly Report of 2003. Since then, the Irish population has increased at a faster pace than anticipated and the demand for care has grown significantly. Last year, there were no applicants for one in four advertised consultant posts and only one applicant per post for a similar percentage, according to the IHCA.

With Irish hospital services increasingly adopting a teamwork approach, there is also serious concern at the difficulties in recruiting all the other professional grades.

The latest official HSE figure showed that there were 140 vacancies in EDs, out of a total workforce of just over 1,000.

The staff moratorium was introduced within the health service from mid-2008 (ahead of the public sector wide moratorium) and continued in place, effectively until the end of 2014.