Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 16 December 2021
Public Accounts Committee
2020 Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 38 - Health
Mr. Robert Watt:
I agree with the Deputy. There are areas in the health system which are challenged, and there are challenging roles.
He mentioned ICUs where the Government has increased the number of beds and has plans to increase them further next year, which is really critical and important. Our big challenge is to get trained ICU staff, particularly nursing staff, of which I understand there is a short supply around the world. There are many different elements here. It is about salary, training and working conditions. There is also an element that people will want to go and live in Canada, Australia and other places for a period. That is part of what many people want to do when they graduate. That is the reality of it.
The key thing for us, however, is to ensure that we are attractive so that people come back. The majority of people who go away for a few years come back and then find employment in the health system. There is an ongoing challenge to make the jobs attractive, however. Pay is one aspect of it but it is really about the opportunity to learn and the physical environment in which people work in terms of the general atmosphere. If people are working in an environment where they are under strain all the time, which has been the situation for large parts of the health system for the past two years, that is a very difficult environment to have to face every day. We all hear the stories of the enormous effort people have put in and will have to put in even more in the next few months to deal with the challenges that will probably be coming down the tracks. In terms of what we can do as a Department, I will certainly take that back and reflect upon it.