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HSE imposing three-month recruitment freeze due to 'financial pressure in the system'

Labour’s Alan Kelly tweeted out a letter this morning sent out by a senior HSE official about the freeze.

Labour's Alan Kelly said an urgent explanation is needed.
Labour's Alan Kelly said an urgent explanation is needed.
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THE HSE HAS decided to suspend recruitment 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”.

In a letter written by chief operations officer at the HSE Liam Woods on 29 March, he said that it was hoped that this “additional control” will be in effect “for as short a period as necessary”. 

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”. 

Labour’s Alan Kelly, who released a copy of the letter this morning, said that an urgent explanation is now essential on why this is happening, and what roles are being blocked.

“What this letter shows is that the 2019 budget is being used to cover overruns from last year. The letter specially says no new or replacement posts can proceed to offer stage.

It is quite unbelievable that in critical service areas where specialist staff may retire or leave they now can’t be replaced, nor according to this letter can people on career break decide to come back over the next three months. Essentially they will have to wait until the budget situation improves.

Kelly also said that this measure will “further impact on waiting lists and the crisis in our A&Es”. 

“It’s unprecedented that only three months into the year the HSE have to tell all sections to stop recruiting,” he said. “It’s not clear if this decision was approved by the Minister for Health or Minister for Finance or why it’s being done now but we need to know that our health service can hire the staff it needs in the areas under pressure.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s This Week programme this afternoon, Kelly added that he had spoken to trade unions who weren’t aware of the recruitment freeze.

Meanwhile, Minister of State Sean Canney, an independent TD in government, told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics said “now is the time” that is appropriate for the HSE to step in to control recruitment and spending.

“Each hospital group has to produce their recruitment strategy. Some have, some haven’t,” he said.

Canney said it was important to have a plan now rather than in October.

He added: “We need more frontline staff and we don’t want more managers. We want to make sure that every ounce of the billions going into health are used and directed to the right place.”

In Budget 2019, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe announced an additional investment of €1.2 billion for health. The minister said recent years had seen “the highest level of health investment in the history of the State”. 

A spokesperson for Health Minister Simon Harris told TheJournal.ie: “We have increased the number of nurses, doctors and therapists every year. That will continue this year. I have spoken to the HSE today, who have assured me recruitment restrictions will not be introduced unless hospital managers fail to outline their budget plans.

Health managers need to submit recruitment plans and credible plans will be supported. Groups that do not submit such plans need to be scrutinised. We allocated a €16 billion budget to the health service and it is important that budgets are adhered to. The 2019 Service Plan allows for recruitment across the health service.

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Sean Murray

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