HSE staff paid €166m allowances
Over €166 million a year is paid in allowances to the Health Service Executive’s 104,000 staff, equivalent to 2.61 per cent of the total pay bill, a Dáil committee has been told.
This includes almost €87 million paid to nurses, €36 million for care and support staff and €29 million paid to medical and dental staff, according to HSE director general designate Tony O’Brien.
Almost 37,000 HSE staff receive an allowance, he told the Public Accounts Committee.
Some 41 different allowances are paid, 12 of them for nurses. Mr O’Brien said many of these stemmed from industrial unrest among nurses in the 1990s. Under Labour Court recommendations, allowances were granted to nurses with specialist skills or working in arduous areas.
He described 31 of the payments as legacy allowances from the last century.
Mr O’Brien said there was concern about high spending on acting up allowances, which cost €17.7 million last year. As a 24 hour, seven day service, it was essential to have flexibility to provide cover at short notice to ensure patient safety and minimise medical risk.
He said negotiations with staff had begun with the aim of restricting the payment of acting up allowances to periods over 84 days. It was expected these talks would end soon and a new arrangement would be implemented which would facilitate considerable savings to the Exchequer.
Absenteeism among nurses stands at 6.5 per cent, human resources director Barry O’Brien told the committee, while it was just 1.1 per cent among medical and dental staff. The overall rate is 4.69 per cent, short of the 3.5 per cent target but showing a slow, consistent decline.