Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Health
Health Service Staff
Seán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
Question 690: To ask the Minister for Health if he is satisfied with current staffing levels in all departments of Naas General Hospital, Kildare; if the public service retirement scheme will impact adversely on the services that the hospital provides; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7948/12]
James Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
The most recent information available from the HSE (as of 8 February 2012) indicates that, over the first two months of 2012, some 2,300 staff will have retired from the health service, with 1,920 of these expected to leave during February. These numbers are liable to change as data is refined, additional applications are processed and the possibility that existing applications may be withdrawn. As such it is not possible to furnish the Deputies with exact numbers of staff retiring or subsequent re-employment in advance of 29th February and I have referred your query to the HSE for direct reply once the information becomes available.
Planning for the delivery of health services is undertaken within the context of the annual National Service Planning process. This process ensures that all factors, including budgets and staffing levels and any other emerging issues, including the impact of the retirements are factored into the plan for what services will be delivered within the coming year. To meet these challenges and to implement the National Service Plan, the HSE is finalising detailed regional plans which will take account of the effect of the reduction in both staff numbers and budgets, as well as addressing the service areas identified for priority development under the plan.Briefings with staff, unions, public representatives and other stakeholders have already commenced and will continue over the coming weeks. Detailed planning for retirements in the period to the end of February 2012 commenced in October last and has also been intensified at local service level as the numbers and locations of those leaving have become clearer.The focus of these plans is on maintaining essential front line services such as emergency departments, intensive care and maternity services. The plans reflect the fact that the number of staff leaving varies from region to region and from service to service. I intend to review the Service Plan in March when the full picture in relation to the current retirements will be clear. The HSE is continuing to utilize the provisions of the Public Service Agreement 2010 to 2014 (the “Croke Park Agreement”) as it seeks to change staff rosters, work practices and to redeploy staff.This will assist in minimising the service impact. Contingency plans to address the impact of the retirements also focus on staff redeployment, streamlining, delivering Greater Productivity through the National Clinical Programmes and the related work of the Special Delivery Unit. There are a number of additional allocations set out in the HSE’s National Service plan that will assist in minimising the impact of the retirements on services, to include the following. Focused Recruitment for critical posts vacated will be undertaken (within the context of the cost containment plans and budgets for each service). Agency staff may be used where there is a critical requirement. Any reliance on agency staff will be in the context of the HSE’s objective to reduce overall agency costs by 50% in 2012. The National Service plan in 2012 also makes provision for some conversion of agency costs into whole time equivalent staff which will be explored in limited circumstances where local budgets allow.