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More than 100 HSE staff off sick every day - at just one hospital

Absenteeism rates are around twice the national average among nurses at several units, HSE figures show.

Image: Shelle O'Connell via Flickr

MORE THAN 100 staff are calling in sick every day at Galway University Hospital, according to figures released by the HSE.

The numbers equate to a 6. 63 per cent absenteeism rate among nurses at the facility – almost twice the national workers average of 3.6 per cent, as measured by the Small Firms Association. Among the hospital’s 221 staff listed as ‘other patient and client care’, the rate is even higher at 8.32 per cent.

The high absenteeism rates are reflected at other hospitals in the HSE West area. Nurses at the Mid West Regional Hospital in Limerick have an absenteeism rate of 7.37 per cent, while at Limerick Maternity Hospital it is 7.06 per cent. These figures refer only to sick leave, both certified and uncertified, and “unexplained absences”. They do not include holidays or maternity leave.

John Hennessy, regional director of operations for HSE West, yesterday hit out at the figures. He told the Irish Times that absenteeism rates are “way too high and it represents a huge lost opportunity for service delivery, productivity and continuity.”

In a statement, the HSE said it had set targets and was working to reduce the absenteeism rate to 3.5 per cent. It also said that regular meetings are held with line managers and staff with ongoing absences may face disciplinary action. The organisation declined to respond specifically to questions about the cost of absenteeism to the taxpayer, the effect on services and whether agency staff are brought in to replace absent workers.

Last month it emerged that HSE spending on agency workers had risen by 50 per cent at some hospitals despite commitments to reduce it.

Read more: HSE defends soaring taxpayer bill for agency workers >

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Michael Freeman

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