Rabbitte: HSE must act like a recruitment agency to solve 'drought' of therapists

Rabbitte: HSE must act like a recruitment agency to solve 'drought' of therapists

USI vice president for Academic Affairs Megan O'Connor said students can find it difficult to find appropriate work experience which is a requirement of their course. 

The HSE must start acting like a recruitment agency to solve the "drought" of speech therapists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists, the Minister for Disabilities has said.

Anne Rabbitte has hit out at the HSE for failing to provide vital work experience and attractive graduate jobs to therapists which has led to severe staff shortages in the health system.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has also called for a formal agreement between third-level colleges and the HSE to ensure students get the best training possible.

"The HSE don't see themselves as a recruitment agency and at the same time we need these young people to get the best experience so they need to be out there in the disability organisations," Ms Rabitte said,

"They would have struggled during the whole Covid period getting work experience, but they struggled before that." 

She is also pushing for a new two-year graduate contract to lure newly qualified therapists to stay in the country and is working with Higher Education Minister Simon Harris to increase the number of people being trained in the profession.

Ms Rabbitte said she "can't for the life of me understand" why the HSE does not commit to take an agreed number of students every year as that "makes perfect logical sense".

I think it needs to be taken up at a very high level within the HSE, as opposed to leaving it to local arrangements. 

"There needs to be a cultural shift within the HSE of accommodating and embracing this new model of giving back work experience."

Ms Rabbitte secured 100 additional therapists positions last year and a further 85 in June, but she will be asking for 100 more places as part of October's Budget and similar increases in the coming years.

"There is no denying it, there is a drought. We need to increase the capacity on three sides, increase the intake, increase the work experience and capture the immigration side.

"At the moment we need to capture the professions. We need to hold on to them. We need to steady our own ship be it in primary care and in disability. 

"We need people to fill in the posts."

She said this could be done by providing graduates with a proper two-year contract which would provide newly qualified therapists with some level of flexibility but would mean they would not leave the country straight away.

There is a big gap there but there is also a great opportunity for us actually to find the best, the cream of the crop, to attract them and to keep them.

USI vice president for Academic Affairs Megan O'Connor said students can find it difficult to find appropriate work experience which is a requirement of their course.

"These students need a broad range of skills and in order to achieve those skills they need a wide variety of placements," Ms O'Connor said. 

"There needs to be collaboration across both sectors in ensuring that the students are given the opportunity to be exposed to the various, different areas to reach the requirements of the professional regulatory bodies as well.

"We are going to continue to suffer from an under-resourced and an understaffed sector, until we address this. It's the most important thing we have to do."

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