Millions of euro are being spent on hiring agency nurses who would prefer to be employed by the HSE and who would cost the State less, it has been claimed.
Figures released by the HSE show almost €41m has been paid out to agencies for general and mental health nurses in the first five months of this year.
The HSE figures released to Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae also show it costs the HSE more than €62 per shift more to use each agency nurse, who work side by side with a staff nurse. According to Mr Healy-Rae, it costs the State €219.59 for a HSE staff nurse to work a 12-hour shift, while the bill for an agency nurse doing the same shift costs €273.27.
Staff nursing costs outside of the €40m spent on agency nursing this year amount to €919m, with almost €129m spent on nursing in the mental health division and close to €790m spent on general nursing.
The additional agency nursing costs were €4.6m covering mental health duties and €36.3m on general nursing. Mr Healy-Rae said “most of the agency staff are on a HSE panel awaiting a full-time position with the HSE”. The Kerry TD said it “makes no sense” to hire agency staff when it was cheaper to employ them directly.
The HSE said all nursing vacancies are filled via the national recruitment service and nurses are offered permanent positions based on their position on the panel.
The use of nursing agency is mainly to provide 1:1 nursing observations which are “an additional requirement to service provision”, the HSE also said.
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