SIPTU is to ballot its members working in HSE West for strike action over plans to make hundreds of staff redundant in an attempt to recoup some of the €90m overspend which exists in the region.
News of the ballot came on the same day as outgoing HSE chief Brendan Drumm conceded it will be very difficult to find the expected cuts in the health budget – up to €700m – without impacting on frontline services.
Even in advance of the budget cuts, one immediate requirement will be a reduction in budgetary overspends across the health service and the HSE West’s regional director for operations John Hennessy has demanded his health managers draw up plans for job losses across the sector ahead of a meeting tomorrow.
In an internal memo to health managers dated July 21, Mr Hennessy writes “what’s very clear to all of us is we face a major challenge between now and year end to achieve the required budget breakeven out-turn”.
“A key component of our breakeven plan will be a substantial reduction in temporary staff,” he says.
“With immediate effect, I wish you to put an action plan in place to maximise the reduction in your temporary staff numbers to achieve your breakeven plan by year end.”
While IMPACT has already said it believes up to 300 jobs are under threat in the mid-west (Clare, Limerick and north Tipperary, SIPTU believes 183 jobs could go in Galway alone and that other facilities in the HSE West (Galway, Roscommon and Mayo) will be affected.
SIPTU health organiser Paul Bell said it was necessary to hold a protective strike ballot in case management decides to act unilaterally and implement the sort of cuts being rumoured.
He has written to the Labour Relations Commission notifying it of the potential for a serious dispute and seeking its assistance. In an interview on RTÉ, HSE chief executive Brendan Drumm said there was a need to reduce the hours of under-utilised hospitals in an attempt to meet the budget cuts. He referred directly to the west as an area that requires attention.
“There is no justification, if I take the west of Ireland for instance in the Galway region where we have significant challenges, for us having four hospitals open for 300,000 people across Galway and Roscommon every night when we know three out of four of those hospitals probably will only do an overnight piece of surgery probably once a month or maybe in some of them not even once a year.
“We pay massive costs, up to €10,000 a night in overtime to have them open. At the same time we are having to take out a home care package for an elderly person who needs care. We cannot continue to run and have people demanding we run services that practically carry out no surgery overnight.”
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