SIPTU tells Oireachtas committee health service cannot continue to rely on agency staff to fill vacancies

SIPTU tells Oireachtas committee health service cannot continue to rely on agency staff to fill vacancies

The current model of funding for the health service is “destined to fail” each year, trade union SIPTU has told the Oireachtas health committee.

The union's health division organiser, Paul Bell, said the current model leaves line managers struggling to provide for ever-expanding service needs.

The union accepted that oversight and scrutiny are needed but the final approved funding plan generally looks nothing like the original one submitted at department level.

Mr Bell said line managers and staff are left “totally demoralised” by the extensive efforts and repeated procedures required to fill vacancies for essential posts.

He pointed out that over €200m will be spent this year on agency staff in the health service and includes €60m that will be spent on health care assistants and €50m on nurses and midwives.

He said:

The reality is many agency workers are employed in the same hospital or ward for years rather than the HSE deciding to recruit.

"Agency work may have a place in our health service for short-term immediate or unexpected replacement. It cannot, however, be used as a replacement for direct employment for the filling of vital front-line health workers.”

SIPTU sector organiser, Kevin Figgis, said an independent review of the radiology department at University Hospital Kerry found that it only has 60% of the required staffing

Mr Figgis said the HSE and the hospital group accepted the report and all of its recommendations almost a year and a half ago but had no plan to fill all of the vacancies that they accepted were there. The department is still 30% short of the staffing needed.

"That's just one example of most departments in most hospitals throughout the country," he said.

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