Union fury over HSE bid to cut 1,000 jobs

LEAKED Health Service Executive (HSE) plans to cut staff numbers by almost 1,000 and redeploy 2,000 workers have set the executive on a collision course with health unions.

Last night union leaders threatened widespread confrontation in the health service unless the proposals were re-drafted.

The draconian measures, outlined in a confidential circular sent to senior HSE management yesterday, proposed:

* Cutting 940 full-time jobs.

* Reducing the number of staff nurses by 700 and limiting the number of student nurse posts.

* Redeploying 2,000 workers from the National Hospitals Office and HSE corporate to community health services — with no compensation payments.

* Shedding 500 jobs in the area of administration and management.

In addition, as a general rule, a new hospital consultant post would only be created when two junior doctor posts had been cut.

Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) general secretary Liam Doran said the HSE plan as outlined in the circular was “grossly offensive to everyone working in the health service”.

He said it was not acceptable, but that the HSE had stressed it was a draft proposal. Unions have called for a redraft before they meet with the HSE again next Monday.

“What it proposes is totally unacceptable and is not the basis for any form of discussion as far as we are concerned,” Mr Doran said.

He said the circular, if interpreted literally, had the potential to reduce job numbers by 20,000 in the health service.

“If we can’t renew temporary contracts and we can’t replace locums, you are talking about nearly 20,000 posts. They simply can’t do that and maintain frontline services,” Mr Doran said.

Beaumont Hospital has 440 nursing staff on temporary contracts and if they were not renewed, the hospital would have to close 25% of its bed capacity, Mr Doran said.

A senior source in the health service said he did not see how the proposals could be redrafted in light of the financial pressures facing the HSE. Frontline services would inevitably be affected, he said.

“We’ve already seen community services scaled back, restrictions on maternity cover, non-replacement of public health nurses. We can expect to see a lot of retirements among psychiatric nurses this year — they get 40 years pension for every 30 years service and we expect to see a large number go this year,” the source said.

A statement from the HSE said the draft circular from its HR department had been circulated to the unions/system “for feedback”.

It said the circular was in keeping with the HSE policy shift towards community-based care and that “items for discussion/proposals include the redeployment of 940 staff from the HSE’s Community Welfare Offices to the Department of Social & Family Affairs and an additional 95 staff in administrative and management roles with responsibility for domiciliary care, social welfare allowance and respite allowance also being transferred to the Department of Social & Family Affairs”.

It said the HSE was seeking to implement these changes by the end of 2009.

Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly said he was “seriously concerned that the front line is on the staff cutting agenda” and he could not see how patient care would not be affected.


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