HSE defends filling 1,100 posts without interviews

FG senator says taking such action ‘wrong’ and calls for review of hiring procedures

More than 1,100 HSE adminstrative staff have been appointed to permanent higher-grade positions without going through formal interview processes.

Fine Gael senator Colm Burke, who obtained the details of the appointments, said that the lack of a fair and transparent process in filling important administrative positions was "seriously flawed".

The HSE currently has 15,082 management/administrative staff - down almost 14 per cent from its peak several years ago.

However, 1,126 of those have been made permanent after acting up in a higher role for a period - without going through a competitive interview.

READ MORE

The HSE maintained that under the Government’s employment moratorium in the public service , it was obliged to fill essential posts through redeployment and by seeking “expressions of interest” from staff.

It maintained that it was permitted to appoint people who were acting- up under so-called “regularisation” provisions outlined in the Croke Park and Haddington Road agreements.

Mr Burke, who is Fine Gael spokesman on health in the Seanad, called for a review of the current procedures.

"In a reply to a question at a recent meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children it was confirmed to me that 1,126 management/administrative employees were made permanent in a higher grade to the role they were previously held," he said. "All of these employees had been acting up in a temporary capacity at a higher grade for a defined period of time prior to being promoted."

Mr Burke said it was “wrong that such a high proportion of jobs within the HSE have been filled in this way”.

He said that to have over 1,100 positions filled without open competition was not in the best interests of the organisation. He urged the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar "to immediately clarify and confirm that positions which are vacant will not be filled in this way in the future."

Speaking at an Oireachtas committee hearing earlier this month, the HSE's deputy director general Laverne McGuinness said that many of those classified as holding management and adminstrative positions were in front-line posts.

She said it included people who were seeing and making appointments for outpatient clinics and inpatient clinics, etc.

“Overall, we have reduced by more than 2,000 staff in that category when one takes into account other agencies the HSE has subsumed. In 2009, a Government decision was made placing a moratorium on recruitment and on promotion,” she said.

“While we have lost more than 2,000 such staff during that time, there are key roles that obviously must be performed, some of which were at a more senior grade. For example, someone in a more junior grade, such as a clerical officer at grade 3, might have been assigned to a post that was vacant in a busy outpatient clinic at grade 4 - there is a lot of responsibility there - to carry out that function and task.”

She added: “However, that person would not have been given any additional money to do it. In other words, such people would have been so assigned, on their existing pay and arrangements, for a period of up to two to three years.

“Under the greater broader framework of the Haddington Road agreement, part of the negotiating process concluded that were somebody in a position like that, that is, covering unpaid for a significant period of over two years unpaid, he or she would be established in that post. In other words, that post would be regularised because there was no opportunity to externally advertise in respect of any promotional posts.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent