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Reilly’s “dynamic contingency plan” is fantasy – Ó Caoláin

2 February, 2012 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as “fantasy” the claim by Health Minister James Reilly that there is a “dynamic contingency plan” in place to address the gaps in service caused by the retirement of 3,700 HSE staff.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“Minister Reilly’s claim that he has a ‘dynamic contingency plan’ to deal with the massive reduction in staff in the HSE is fantasy and hype. There is no such plan.

“In reply to a detailed Dáil Question from me regarding the centralised co-ordination of plans to address this very serious situation the minister made no mention of any ‘dynamic contingency plan’. Instead the minister repeatedly cited the HSE Service Plan 2012 which implements the government’s cut of €750 million from the health budget.

“In his reply to me the minister says he has asked the HSE Board to submit to him its assessment of the likely impact of retirements at the end of February and to identify ‘pressure points’ and to develop ‘appropriate measures to deal with significant departures’.

“The truth is that neither the minister nor the HSE know the full extent of the impact of these departures.

“What is needed is a real ‘dynamic plan’ to protect and defend front-line services, lifting the recruitment embargo and putting in place a programme to reopen the over 2,000 acute public hospital in-patient beds currently closed.” ENDS

QUESTION NO: 174

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Health (Dr. James Reilly)
by Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 01/02/2012


* To ask the Minister for Health if he is responsible for centralised coordination of contingency plans to address the severe shortfall in Health Service Executive staff, especially in front-line services, that will follow the departure of thousands of employees under early retirement at the end of February 2012; if he has satisfied himself that such contingency plans exist; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin T.D.


REPLY.
The Government has determined that, in line with its commitment to reduce the size of the public service, health sector employment numbers must be reduced to approximately 102,000 in 2012.

The cumulative impact of staff reductions from this year and previous years represents a significant challenge for the health system in delivering services. The priority is to reform how health services are delivered in order to ensure a more productive and cost effective health system.

The most recent information available from the HSE indicates that, over the period from September 2011 to end-February 2012, some 3,700 health service staff will have retired from the health service. Of this total, approximately 1,500 persons have already retired during the four-month period to the end of December 2011, while the remainder have indicated that they will leave by the end of February 2012. It should be noted that these figures refer to the number of individuals rather than wholetime equivalents (WTE). It should also be noted that this data is subject to change in the event of additional applications being received or existing applications being withdrawn.

The health and personal social services that will be delivered by the HSE within its budget and anticipated staff complement are set out in the National Service Plan for 2012, which I approved on 13 January. It is clear that the cumulative impact of staff reductions from this year and previous years represents a significant challenge for the health system in delivering services. It increases the need for reform including greater flexibilities in work practices and rosters as well as redeployment. The Service Plan includes a commitment to addressing these issues within the context of the Public Service Agreement. It also commits the HSE to minimising the impact on services by fast tracking new, innovative and more efficient ways of using reducing financial and human resources. The Plan reflects the need to move to new models of care across all service areas which will treat patients at the lowest level of complexity and provide quality services at the least possible cost.

Other reform initiatives set out in the Plan include the development of proposals to protect the viability of community nursing units and to increase the intermediate care capacity for older people; a significant strengthening of primary care services; the enhancement of community mental health teams; a more tailored approach to disability services; and progression of the clinical care programmes.

I intend to review the Service Plan once the full impact of the staff leaving at the end of the 29 February “grace period” is known. In advance of this, I have asked the HSE Board to submit as a matter of urgency its assessment of the likely impact of retirements to the end of February, to identify particular pressure points and to develop appropriate measures to deal with significant departures in a given service or area.

The HSE is currently finalising detailed service plans at regional level and these regional plans will take account of the effect of the current reduction in staff numbers.

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