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'Lives on hold': Recruitment freeze in HSE preventing workers from starting their new jobs

One healthcare worker said that she may have “nowhere to live” by the end of the month because she can’t yet take up her new job.

Image: Shutterstock/Corrado Baratta

A HEALTHCARE WORKER who cancelled the lease on her home after accepting a HSE job in a different province hundreds of kilometres away found out through media reports that she couldn’t take up the new position because of a recruitment freeze.

The woman – who works with children with complex needs – has said she is now left “in limbo” as she hasn’t been told when she’ll able to take her job as the recruitment freeze continues. 

If it persists, she told TheJournal.ie that she may have nowhere to live as she’s already due to leave her current home at the end of the month and unsure when she’ll be able to move to take up the new job. 

She is one of numerous people due to start new jobs but haven’t been given a start date over the freeze, according to Labour’s Alan Kelly.

At the beginning of April, Kelly highlighted the freeze put in place by the HSE sharing a letter that had been issued a week before to senior HSE figures. 

In that letter, dated 29 March, HSE chief operations officer Liam Woods wrote to senior colleagues to inform them of the recruitment freeze.

He said that recruitment had been suspended for the next three months due to the “financial pressures in the system” from recruitment last year, and the “need to live within the resources provided to the HSE”.

Woods said that it was hoped that this “additional control” will be in effect “for as short a period as necessary”. 

He added that the freeze on the recruitment of new posts will apply “until satisfactory financial plans [from the various hospital groups and CHOs] have been received, endorsed centrally and are demonstrating good evidence of traction”. 

At the time, Alan Kelly called the move “unprecedented” and “unbelievable”. He also said that this measure will “further impact on waiting lists and the crisis in our A&Es”. 

‘Extremely stressful’

The woman who spoke to this website works with children with complex needs at a HSE-run centre. 

Alice (her name has been changed) accepted a job at another centre based in another province over 200km away in February.

“But these things always take time,” she told TheJournal.ie. “I accepted the job off the panel in February and was told I was in the final stages of recruitment at the end of March and would receive my contract within two to three weeks.”

By then she assumed that following her notice period she could take up her new job around the end of May or start of June. She gave notice to her landlord that she would be terminating her lease on 31 May.

The first Alice heard about the recruitment freeze was in the media, when it was first reported on 7 April.

She said she’d reached out to the HSE on a number of occasions and was informed staff working in recruitment had been told to put a stop on all contracts. 

Alice is now fearful that the lack of communication or clarity might mean that the freeze may persist longer than three months, and said it is affecting her personally and professionally.

“As I was told that I would have my contract and start date in plenty of time before the end of May I gave notice to move out of my rented accommodation by 31 May and now have nowhere to live following this date,” she said. “With no start date for my new job, I cannot commit to a new lease which is extremely stressful.”

Furthermore, with the work she’s currently engaged in, she is unsure how far to progress with care plans for the children she works with.

Having initially thought she’d have been winding down her work by now, Alice is now in a situation where she could be making plans for a child’s care that she may not able to fulfill if the freeze is lifted and she’s able to take up her new position.

“And that’s not fair for the children and parents either,” she said. “We need clarity on this, and it’s been sorely lacking so far.

I have good friends here so I should have somewhere to live beyond May but it’s not for definite. People I talk to don’t seem to know about it. They’re not aware of it. I’m in limbo here just waiting to find out what happens next. It just all feels a bit disrespectful.

‘People cannot put their lives on hold’

It’s not just Alice who’s affected by the recruitment freeze. She said a colleague of hers who’s an agency worker who was set to move from an agency post to a temporary HSE one to cover maternity leave has had her contract put on hold due to the ban.

In effect, it would mean in this case that the HSE is paying more to keep her as agency staff than it would if she was a HSE staff member. 

And, in other situations, a person who may have already handed in their notice is now left without a new job to go, Labour’s health spokesperson Alan Kelly has said.

“It is unacceptable that healthcare professionals who have been offered jobs, who may have handed in their notice elsewhere because they were due to start a new job in the HSE that their start date now hangs in the balance,” Kelly said yesterday.

People cannot put their lives on hold because of the complete mismanagement of this recruitment embargo. People have mortgages or rent to pay and other living expenses. To be told one week that you have a job offer in the HSE and will be provided with a start date and then told the following week that your start date has been suspended because of the embargo is unacceptable.

Kelly concluded by saying the HSE needs to be upfront with people and tell them when exactly they’ll be starting their jobs. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a HSE spokesperson said there “isn’t a recruitment freeze in the HSE”, but highlighted “controls in place” until 30 June. 

“There is on-going capacity to recruit new funded posts and also to replace critical clinical posts.

There are controls in place on an interim basis to up to the 30 June to ensure that the HSE is demonstrating that it is living within the available resources provided to it by Government. This does mean that in some Hospital Groups and CHOs non-critical replacement posts will be paused.

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Sean Murray

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