Row looms over HSE outsource plan for Mount Carmel

Siptu warns Haddington Road deal breached and industrial action cannot be ruled out

Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin’s Churchtown was bought by the HSE to provide 65 extra short-stay beds.  Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin’s Churchtown was bought by the HSE to provide 65 extra short-stay beds. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

A major industrial relations row is looming over plans by HSE management to outsource the operation of a new State-owned facility providing community and step-down beds on the site of the former Mount Carmel private hospital in south Dublin.

The HSE said the new community facility – which forms a key element of its strategy for dealing with delayed discharges from acute hospitals – would be run on a contract basis by a private operator.

Siptu will “confront this decision” and said industrial action could not be ruled out.

The HSE bought the hospital in Churchtown last year for a reported €11 million. It said it intended to convert it to provide 65 short-stay beds which would be opening on a phased basis in April.

It said: “A service provider will be contracted to provide this service on behalf of the HSE. This process is currently under way and a decision on awarding of the contract will be taken shortly.”

Third-party provider

Paul Bell

Mr Bell said it was a “clear and unambiguous breach” of the Haddington Road agreement and said the HSE had not consulted the union.

“We intend to confront this decision and industrial action is not ruled out. I have already put the HSE on notice last week in a formal letter to Corporate Employee Relations of our members’ deep concern in this regard.”

He said the issue would be discussed at a meeting of the health service oversight body for the Haddington Road agreement on Friday. Mr Bell also referred to the “zealousness of certain interests” to outsource as many members’ jobs as possible. He said the attitude was not acceptable after the Government confirmed the staff recruitment embargo has been lifted.

The Irish Times understands that late last year the HSE came under pressure from the Department of Health to draw up a plan for external delivery of services.

In a letter dated November 14th, the secretary general of the Department of Health Jim Breslin told HSE director general Tony O’Brien that the Government was committed to developing a plan for external delivery of services in the public sector. He said up to that point no overarching plan for the health service was produced.

“This puts us behind us behind other sectors in terms of progress, and the Reform Delivery Board for the public sector, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, has raised continuing concerns in this regard.”

Mr Breslin urged Mr O’Brien to expedite all necessary steps to conclude an external delivery plan for the health service as soon as possible.

“My sense is that a short, focused, initial plan which identifies the main candidate areas for external delivery, summarises progress to date and maps out the future work to be done to further consider areas/and or implement specific projects would meet the requirements which are urgent at this stage.”