Wednesday, 7 October 2015
Health Services Staff Recruitment
I thank the Minister of State for taking this matter. I call on the Minister for Health to provide a derogation for 20 health care assistant-multi-task attendant and nursing posts to be advertised and filled locally for St. Brendan's community nursing unit, Ballinasloe, County Galway, in light of the failure of the HSE to hire these staff. This had been agreed last February when stakeholders met to discuss the opening of a step-down beds unit in St. Brendan's in Ballinasloe. The unit is operated by St. Brendan's in Loughrea but the understanding was that 20 posts would be allocated to people. The opening of the beds was due to the ongoing LRC talks to relieve pressure on county and accident and emergency departments.
The HSE provided quick finance to get the beds up and running and, therefore, it was agreed the unit could hire agency workers while the hiring of full-time staff was conducted. However, the HSE national recruitment service is not progressing the filling of the posts seven months after agreement was reached and the full-time permanent positions are in a state of limbo with agency staff filling the roles. This is simply an advertise, interview and hire procedure and, therefore, the delay is ludicrous. The matter needs to be resolved as soon as possible because the impact of full-time permanent employment on 20 families would be immense. This should not be allowed to drag on without clarity or action because, at the end of the day, hiring agency staff is costly to the Exchequer and, thus, to the taxpayer.
I have contacted the Minister for Health's office twice over the past month and I have not received a response to either of my e-mails on this matter. This is urgent and the matter should not be allowed to drag on indefinitely with no decision arrived at. It is shocking to think we have a national recruitment service that takes seven or eight months to fill posts. I am sure there are 20 multi-task attendants available who would relish the opportunity to take a full-time permanent post, which would set them up for life. I call on the Minister of State to urgently do what she can to influence the Minister to rectify this matter at the earliest convenience.
I thank the Senator for raising the matter. I am taking this on behalf of the Minister for Health who is on government business elsewhere. The policy of the Government is to support older people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and to keep them in their communities for as long as possible.If it becomes necessary for older people to move to a nursing home, appropriate accommodation must be available that meets their care needs and matches their wishes and preferences. The Health Service Executive, HSE, is responsible for the delivery of health and personal social services, including those at St. Brendan's community nursing unit, Ballinasloe, County Galway. Part of the HSE's long-term plan for the community nursing unit is to open all 50 beds, of which 25 will be long stay residential care beds and 25 will be short stay beds. I have been informed by the HSE that it has contacted the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, to register this facility and while the process is under way, the plan is to open a further ten short stay beds, by December, depending on staffing. Subject to any requirement HIQA may have, it is a matter for the HSE to determine the staffing complement and the ratio of nursing to support staff. In this instance, the staffing levels have been agreed. However, there is a delay in appointing staff to the posts. The HSE established the National Recruitment Service, NRS, in 2009 as part of the policy of developing shared services. The current difficulties in sourcing nurses relate to shortages of potential nursing staff in Ireland and worldwide shortages, rather than a failing on the part of the NRS.
Notwithstanding the difficulties faced in recruiting nurses, I advise that an extra 578 whole-time equivalent nurses and midwives were employed between August 2014 and August 2015. In addition, the HSE is planning to recruit over 500 nurses across a number of nursing disciplines. There is significant work being undertaken to achieve this. It includes recent and ongoing national and local interviewing of all categories of nurses and midwives.
The HSE has also developed an international nurse recruitment project to fill posts. This initiative is a targeted recruitment drive in the United Kingdom, primarily focused on Irish trained nurses who left during the moratorium. There are plans to broaden the campaign. The HSE has also significantly increased multi-task attendant and health care assistant numbers. Including interns, the number of multi-task attendants has increased by 270 in the past 12 months and the number of health care assistants by 700.
I reaffirm the Government's commitment to the delivery of care at the most appropriate level, in particular the provision of nursing home care as an alternative to long stay acute hospital care, given the capacity pressures on the acute sector. The opening of additional beds in homes such as St. Brendan's community nursing unit will be pursued as a priority to support persons who can no longer live at home and those who do not require acute hospital care.
I know that this is not the Minister of State’s specific area of responsibility and that she is standing in for the Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, but that answer is not satisfactory. I am not disputing the Government’s level of care, but I am disputing the fact that decisions were made last February to hire 20 staff for the unit in question. In his response the Minister goes on about staff shortages, but that is not the whole picture or answer. There are agency staff in place. Perhaps it is time we interviewed them and made them permanent and cut the cost to the Exchequer. The Minister needs to intervene in this matter to get these jobs up and running and make 20 people permanent. Obviously, the offshoot of this and the multiplier effect in Loughrea and Ballinasloe would be enormous. I ask the Minister of State to use her offices to contact the Minister. I have tried to contact him, but I have not received a satisfactory response. I would greatly appreciate it if the Minister of State used her good offices to ask him to intervene to sort out the matter at his earliest possible opportunity.