The cost of all agency staff employed by the HSE from January to date is more than €165m, according to new figures.
The spend on agency staff in the health system came in ministerial responses to quarterly questions asked by Fine Gael Senator Colm Burke, who said it was time management structures in some hospitals were queried given the high number of agency hours being worked.
Last year the total spend on agency staff was just over €304m, so the tally so far means the 2015 figure is likely to be reduced. The HSE had pledged earlier this year to trim €25m off the figure. In his response to Senator Burke, Health Minister Leo Varadkar suggested this target would now be met.
“Based on figures to the end of July it is estimated, if current progress can be maintained, that by year end our hospitals will have reduced total agency costs by €25m in 2015 compared to 2014. Within this, 31 of our 49 hospitals are expected to reduce total agency costs by €39m with growth of €14m occurring within 18 hospitals,” he said.
The figures also show there are 348 doctors working in HSE hospitals on an agency basis, and it indicates some variances in the number of agency hours worked in different hospitals. Of the 638,673 agency staff hours worked so far this year, more than one-tenth, or 66,860, were at Midlands General Hospital in Portlaoise. Cavan General and the Mid-Western Regional Hospital Limerick have also clocked more then 50,000 agency hours this year.
Senator Burke said the spend on agency staff was still huge and indicated the system was not working.
Last month Fianna Fáil Health spokesman Billy Kelleher said correspondence from the HSE had revealed 82% of its agency staff budget was used up by end of May.
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