Health staff recruitment is 'a disaster' which is adding to hospital crisis

Health staff recruitment is 'a disaster' which is adding to hospital crisis

Taoiseach Micheál Martin officially opened a new state-of-the-art 40-bed modular unit based on the hospital campus of Tipperary University Hospital on Friday, where he met Ailish Grant, physiotherapist and Doreen Kiely, clinical nurse manager. Picture: Patrick Browne

The recruitment process for nurses and other health staff is “a disaster” and is only adding to the crisis facing hospitals this winter, it has been claimed.

New figures show that despite HSE estimates it needs to recruit 8,000 new staff every year to balance out retiring staff and other leavers, just 10,816 have been taken on since December 2019.

That 10,816 includes: 

  • 2,778 nurses and midwives; 
  • 1,159 hospital doctors;
  • 310 senior consultants;
  • 1,840 therapists.

Administration and managerial roles were boosted by 2,352 posts, a number of whom were hired to deal with Covid-19 admin. It also includes an extra 279 roles in top-level management at grade 8 or higher.

The number of public health nurses, however, dropped by 10, and home helps by 43, despite growing demand for community care.

Just 82 paramedics were hired over the period and 75 psychologists.

In recent weeks, the Irish Examiner reported the HSE’s target of recruiting 14,567 staff by December had been revised downwards to a more achievable 7,370.

Sinn Féin's health spokesman David Cullinane said recruitment practices were a major stumbling block to boosting HSE numbers.

“The recruitment process is a disaster,” he said. “If a nurse is retiring, the managers have to get permission from the hospital group to advertise it, then that has to be signed off by the HSE. 

On average, it can take six months to replace a nurse, and up to one year to hire a nurse.” 

He recently met with hospital managers and trade union representatives and was told it can take up to two years to hire a hospital consultant.

“It shouldn’t take six months to replace a nurse when we’re in the middle of a crisis,” Mr Cullinane said.

“That was brought in during austerity times as a control measure, there has been no change. There are layers of bureaucracy and hurdles they have to go through.” 

Agency workers

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation was calling for recruitment practices to be streamlined even before the pandemic, saying full-time staff are often replaced by temporary agency workers instead.

Figures provided to Mr Cullinane in a parliamentary response also show extra staff recruited to date includes more than 3,200 contract workers for vaccinations and other Covid work.

The HSE document states 81% of staff are employed on permanent contracts, and stated of recruitment plans: “The final quarter of any year normally sees the greatest level of growth” 

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