Health Minister Simon Harris has rejected claims the HSE is top-heavy with managers while shortages in frontline staffing cause waiting lists to soar.
Mr Harris reacted tetchily to Fianna Fáil criticisms following the release of workforce figures that show almost three senior managers were appointed in the HSE every week this year.
“This old chestnut is straight out of a typical book of opposition politicians during the summer season,” he said, calling the interpretation of the figures “a lot of hype”.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher obtained the data through a parliamentary question. It showed the HSE had 1,159 people employed at national director, assistant national director, general manager, or grade-8 level at the end of June — a 50% increase on 2013.
“If there is one area of the health service where the HSE has no difficulty recruiting it’s in the managerial area,” said Mr Kelleher. “While they struggle to fill white coats, they seem to have a special talent for increasing the numbers of white-collar staff.
“The HSE will undoubtedly claim that these new managerial appointments are essential but many will be sceptical about that. In any case, can they show any other area of the health service where staffing levels have risen by more than 50% since the end of 2013?”
Mr Harris told his local radio station, East Coast Radio, that the recruitment came after a fall-off during the recession.
“The number of managers dramatically reduced since the economic recession — about 2,600 less people are in management and administration,” he said.
“And let’s be very clear, when we talk about managers and administrators, let’s not be so pejorative and disparaging as to suggest they do not add any value to the health service.”
Mr Harris said it Fianna Fáil mismanagement of the economy had caused cutbacks in the health service.
His comments come as the number of people on trolleys in emergency departments and hospital wards continues to cause concern. The anticipated drop in numbers associated with milder summer weather and new policies meant to tackle the problem has not materialised. A total of 354 people were awaiting a bed yesterday compared to 258 on the same day last year.
Michael O’Keeffe, consultant ophthalmologist at two Dublin hospitals, said that, given the state of the health service, the number of managers in the HSE is “farcical”.
“If managers could solve our healthcare problems we would have the best health system in the world,” said Prof O’Keeffe. “It has got to the stage where it has become ridiculous. The time has come for the Minister for Health to get off his butt and take the HSE on.”
The HSE said it lost 16% of its managers and administrators between 2009 and 2012 and even now, those employed at grade 8 or higher made up just 1.4% or one in 80 of all HSE staff.
“The largest employer in the State, and an annual budget of the order of €14bn, requires significant management resources to manage effectively in the best interests of patients, clients, and the taxpayer,” it said.
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