The HSE took on just 185 out of 14,100 healthcare staff under the ‘Be on Call for Ireland’ initiative rolled out in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
The health service has confirmed that 2,900 registered medical and dental professionals, 4,400 nursing professionals, and 6,800 allied health professionals volunteered their services under the ‘Be on Call’ initiative, which sought to boost staffing levels to cope with the public health emergency.
However, just 185 of the 14,100 people offering their services were taken on to boost the Covid-19 response.
Figures provided to the Irish Examiner show that 15 doctors, 79 nurses and midwives, and 34 healthcare attendants made up the bulk of staff taken on under the ‘Be on Call’ initiative.
The remaining 57 staff included occupational therapists, dieticians, physiotherapists, laboratory staff, scientists, cleaners, porters, and administrative staff among others.
The HSE said it began making preparations to significantly increase capacity from mid-February in anticipation of “potential unprecedented demand” on services.
The ‘Be on Call for Ireland’ initiative, it said, set out to provide “job ready” healthcare professionals to the health service and that of the 14,000 healthcare applicants the numbers fell to around 2,000 after screening and interviews.
Figures furnished separately to Sinn Féin further show that of the 185 posts, 104 were filled across the six hospital groups, 42 across community services, and 39 across other services, such as public health. An additional 660 candidates have full recruitment clearances and were “job ready”, the HSE further advised.
Across community services no staff were taken on in the Wicklow, Dublin South East, Dun Laoghaire region and just three staff were taken on in the Cork and Kerry region.
The low recruitment figures Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health Louise O’Reilly said were baffling given that nursing homes and residential care facilities were "crying out" for additional staff.
Deputy O’Reilly said: "It beggars belief that with tens of thousands of health staff applying to work through 'Be On Call for Ireland' and in the face of an international healthcare crisis, that recruitment through the initiative has been so low."
The figures come amid recent concerns over a lack of junior doctor posts and positions for staff who returned from abroad to boost the Covid-19 response.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said a “chronic” shortage of doctors was impacting on health services and must be addressed by the new government.
“Our ongoing inability to address our chronic doctor shortage is having significant negative effects on our health system and must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the incoming Government,” the IMO said in a statement.
Earlier this week Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Prime Time on RTÉ he was surprised by reports of healthcare staff not having jobs and that “suitably qualified” staff would be taken on where vacancies arise.
“Not that long ago the various unions were telling us that it was impossible to find nurses and doctors and now we’re being told there are healthcare workers, who are unemployed and looking to be employed,” Mr Varadkar said.
“I find it hard to believe that things have changed so much in just a few months and I think that needs to be investigated because if those people are suitably qualified I want them working in our public health service,” he added.