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'Grave concerns' over controversial HSE plan to fire hospital staff

The HSE has produced a report which proposes getting rid of all agency staff in three hospitals – but the plan has drawn harsh criticism.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE MAIN UNION for nurses and midwives in Ireland has said it is “gravely concerned” about a leaked HSE plan to fire all agency staff and end overtime in three hospitals.

The proposals, detailed in a draft report marked confidential and not for circulation, would see 174 agency staff removed from the hospitals in Louth and Meath by the end of the year.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) says that the move would have a dramatic impact on patient care as agency staff are used to cover gaps in staffing that already exist in the hospitals.

The report says that the reduction in staff would mean 20 acute medical beds in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda would be cut and that 74 per cent of elective theatre activity would have to stop at the hospital.

A spokesperson said that the union is opposed to any measures that will “put lives at risk and exacerbate emergency department overcrowding, lengthen waiting lists and reduce the quality of care provided”.

Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín, who received the leaked report, said it was damning and would create serious risk to patient care across the region. He said:

What is most significant is that this report illustrates the damage that would be done to the health service in the north east even if 50 per cent of the proposed cuts in agency staff are implemented. These proposals need to be scrapped.

He criticised the existing structures in the HSE which have seen increasing numbers of agency staff brought in to deal with the ongoing public sector embargo on recruitment, saying:

The over reliance on agency workers is due to poor workforce planning including the recruitment embargoes of this government. There is a need to replace agency staff with full time HSE staff.

A HSE spokesperson told RTE.ie that the report was an initial draft document and has no current status.

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