Five times as many nurses retired as manager staff

Mon, Mar 26, 2012, 01:00

MORE THAN five times as many nurses as management and administration personnel left the health service before controversial changes to pension arrangements came into effect at the beginning of the month.

Nursing staff made up almost half of the more than 4,500 HSE workers who availed of the incentivised retirement scheme and left within the so-called “grace period”, according to figures that HSE chief executive Cathal Magee provided to an Oireachtas health committee last week.

A total of 2,104 nursing staff had left the HSE by March 9th, by which time 411 management and administration personnel had retired.

He also confirmed that the total number of staff who had left was 4,515.

Committee chairman Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer was told, in response to a written question to the HSE and the Minister for Health James Reilly, that the HSE’s National Service Plan 2012 had been based on 3,000 “whole-time equivalent” staff retiring before the end of February 2012 and being paid lump sums in 2012.

“This number has now risen to in excess of 4,300. The HSE will have to run a new estimate of the costs associated with this level of retirements once the data on retirees’ lump sums and pensions is available,” the reply stated.

“It is likely that there will be a significant growth in costs associated with this higher number of retirees.”

Mr Magee said the HSE’s “overarching aim” had been to protect “critical frontline essential services”, and insisted there were a “range of national measures” in place to reduce the impact of the retirements.

He said these included using the provisions of the Croke Park agreement and delivering greater productivity through national clinical programmes.

He said €16 million had been allocated for targeted recruitment and filling of roles in instances where “critical gaps” in services could not be filled through redeployment or the reorganisation of services.

He said 288 of these replacements would be in acute hospital services and 244 in community services.

Dr Reilly said in February planned operations might have to be postponed as a result of the impact of staff departures.

Public sector pay rates were reduced on January 1st, 2010, but under the so-called “grace period” employees were entitled to retire up to the end of February of this year with benefits based on their salary prior to the cuts.

All employees who have retired since January 1st 2010, have left under these terms.

The net saving to the HSE of a staff member leaving is about 36 per cent of salary. This can drop to 26 per cent in the context of the need to replace staff on the frontline at a 10 per cent level.

The reason that the saving is a low per cent of the gross pay of an individual is that the HSE will pay a pension of 50 per cent of the salary and that the pension levy and superannuation charge to staff are income in the hands of the HSE. Separately, the HSE has to provide a lump sum of one and a half times the finishing salary, it stated in the response that Mr Buttimer received.