HSE seeks to solve overtime crisis

THE HSE wants to recruit more junior doctors from abroad than the number of posts it needs to fill as part of plans to cut spiralling costs for existing staff.

Health service officials have confirmed the overflow move involving doctors from India and Pakistan is taking place to ensure reductions in overtime and agency staff expenditure are made.

It is also expected the plan will lead to current junior doctors hours being reduced towards European Working Time Directives (EWTD).

“An additional number of doctors are being allocated to certain specialities in excess of current vacancies,” internal senior management correspondence published in trade newspaper Irish Medical Times stated.

Confirmation of the move comes a day after HSE chief executive, Cathal Magee, told the cross-party Oireachtas Health Committee that 191 junior doctor posts are currently vacant in hospitals across the country.

This figure is 41 higher than the corresponding level just one week ago.

In an attempt to combat the situation, the HSE has increased its recruitment of short-term junior doctors from India and Pakistan to work in the health service here.

This policy will also involve the fast-tracking of registration with the Medical Council of Ireland in order to bring the doctors into the system as soon as is safe to do so.

The HSE said the recruitment of additional junior doctors on these contracts will also help to cut agency overtime costs for workers, both of which have witnessed significant expenditure increases in recent years.

Figures revealed by the Irish Examiner earlier this month confirmed that some public hospitals are set to spend up to 10 times as much on agency staff costs this year than they did in 2005.

In the first three months of this year, Ireland’s rural and regional hospitals spent €25.71 million on agency staff costs, the equivalent of €285,737 every day between January and March.

This figure, which compares to €17.8m for all of 2005, is despite a HSE statement in February that is plans to cut agency worker costs by €33m this year.

Health service overtime costs have also risen significantly since the recruitment embargo was imposed.

Since the HSE was established in 2005, hospitals and other health facilities have spent more than €1.1 billion on staff who are forced to work extra hours to cover growing workloads.

FOCionnaith.direct@examiner.ie

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