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‘Beyond a joke now’: People offered HSE jobs as far back as January still waiting due to recruitment ‘controls’

Some people left previous jobs under the assumption that they’d be starting their new HSE job within the next few weeks.

Image: Peter Byrne/PA Images

PEOPLE OFFERED JOBS as far back as six months ago with the HSE have still not started in their new positions yet, as the “recruitment freeze” continues.

The effective freeze on certain positions within the HSE has seen candidates being told that they were successful in their application for the job, but not provided with contracts and start dates.

In some cases, people left their previous employment under the assumption that they’d be starting their new HSE job within the next few weeks.

The HSE has rejected the claim that it is in fact a recruitment freeze, and told TheJournal.ie in April that “controls” were in place on recruitment until 30 June.

However, that date has come and gone, and people who were offered roles with the HSE still haven’t been told when they’ll be starting their new jobs.

One woman who was offered a job as a speech and language therapist from a HSE panel in January of this year still has not been told when she’ll be starting her job, and now fears it may not even be until next year.

She told TheJournal.ie: “Call it what you want. No one can tell me anything. They never sent an email to any of the candidates to let them know this was and is happening. It’s really bad.”

Everytime I’m told ‘we’ve no further information to share’. They’ve not taken responsibility. It’s all down to us to ring and chase this up.”

Recruitment freeze

At the beginning of April, Labour’s health spokesperson Alan 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”.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie prior to the European Elections, now-Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher said the situation has to end.

“It’s outrageous that you’ve a blunt policy on recruitment that effectively discommodes people’s lives in terms of making an application for a job, them awarding that vacancy, and them going about changing where they live, maybe sending their kids to a different school, etc, to find out that the job is no longer available is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Kelleher added that it’s a “breach of basic decency”, and said the HSE had an obligation when advertising a job to follow through on it.

No end in sight

In April, TheJournal.ie spoke to a number of people affected by the controls in place on recruitment.

In one case, a family of four were left in doubt as to whether they’d be able to pay their mortgage after the husband gave up his own job after his wife was offered a sought-after post within the HSE. They’d been under the impression she’d start the job in a matter of weeks, but this dragged on for a series of months, with the family saying they were left “in limbo”.

Another said that she may have nowhere to live as she was already due to leave her current home at the end of May and unsure when she’ll be able to move to take up the new job.

That woman still has not been told when she’ll be starting her new job.

She said this week: “It’s just so difficult to plan for work and life in general without having any idea of a start date.”

In another case, another healthcare worker who planned to relocate when offered a new job in March has still had no official communication as to when she can take up the job.

She said: “ I was told all along they’d know more at the end of June so I rang in hope at the end of June thinking there would have been an update. Unfortunately they still can’t give me any details as to how long more it could go on for.

“It’s already been 4 months since I accepted the job. It’s incredibly frustrating. I’m now commuting for 2.5 hours a day to and from my current job as I’ve had to move away from Dublin as the lease was up on my apartment and I thought I’d be in the new job by now. I know people who have been waiting up to seven months now. There has still not been as much as one email from the HSE with any details.”

Her role is specialised, and she said it’s her understanding agency staff are currently working in her new position while the impasse remains in place.

The worker who was told in January that she was granted a role as a speech and language therapist had been told that “everything was ready” for her to start her new position.

She said: “I was offered the job in January, and then all the paperwork, garda vetting was done. That was all completely through. In March everything looks fine, and I was told it’d be a few days and I’d get my start date. I didn’t hear anything for a week and got on to them. I was told there was a stop on it, and they had been told no contracts could be issued. It had been ready to go.”

She was very critical of the HSE’s response and said it that while it has a negative effect on those waiting for their jobs to begin, it is the service users who ultimately suffer.

“It’s really annoying for people not being able to start your job,” she said. “It’s worse for service users. Waiting lists are long enough. Those children are missing out.

“If young children have to wait for a year and they’re only four years old, that’s a huge amount of time. Speech and language problems that could’ve been managed and addressed if treated straight away can become complex.”

HSE response

Health Minister Simon Harris told the Dáil in May that he believed that the controls put in place by the HSE were “sensible”

Harris had also the controls would remain in place until the end of June but a HSE spokesperson has now said they will stay in place pending further budgetary assurances. 

“The purpose of these controls is 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 CHO’s non-critical replacement posts will be paused,” the spokesperson told TheJournal.ie.

There is ongoing capacity to recruit new funded posts and also to replace critical clinical posts. These controls will remain in place pending further assurance of the capacity to manage within budget as set out in the National Service Plan 2019.

On receipt and acceptance of balanced plans from Hospital Groups and CHO’s these additional controls can be reviewed and removed where appropriate.

The HSE added that the controls would preferably remain in place for “as short a period as necessary”.

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Sean Murray

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