Over 7% absenteeism at three hospitals


ROSCOMMON COUNTY Hospital, Ennis hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda are the hospitals with the worst absenteeism rates in the State, new figures show.

All three hospitals have absenteeism rates of over 7 per cent, more than twice the Government target, according to the latest figures from the HSE.

Ennis hospital’s score of 7.39 per cent in the May figures represents a clear improvement on recent months, when absenteeism was almost 9 per cent. This was achieved in part through a zero rate of sick leave among medical and dental staff. In contrast, absenteeism among health and social care professionals and patient and client-care staff topped 10 per cent.

Roscommon also had zero absenteeism among doctors and dentists but topped the table at 7.54 per cent, in part due to the fact that one in eight management and administration staff were out sick during the month.

Minister for Health James Reilly has identified sick leave as an area where large savings can be made in the health budget, which is €253 million over budget. Last year, absenteeism in health accounted for half of all absenteeism in the public service, costing €290 million.

Health managers have shown signs of a new “get-tough” policy in recent months, when seven staff – five in Dublin and two in the west – were dismissed for persistent absenteeism.

However, Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation general secretary Liam Doran said there wasn’t much scope for reducing the absenteeism figures, given the stress levels involved in working in the health service and the exposure of many staff to infection.

Twelve hospitals had an absenteeism rate of over 6 per cent, while Sligo Regional Hospital and the Mid-Western Orthopaedic Hospital in Croom, Co Limerick, had the lowest rates, at under 2.5 per cent.

The highest single figure for absenteeism was recorded among general support staff at Cork Dental Hospital, where the figure for May was 23.5 per cent.

Overall, absenteeism in the health service rose in May to 4.81 per cent, from 4.7 per cent the previous month. Some 88 per cent of this was certified and the rest was uncertified. The Government target is 3.5 per cent.

While absenteeism among staff is a recurring problem for the HSE, the figures reveal that no-shows among patients is also a growing issue.

In June, 10,895 patients did not attend a first appointment while 25,547 did not attend second or subsequent appointments.

Overall, one in six patients failed to turn up for a scheduled appointment, but the figure rises to as high as 39.5 per cent for new attendances at Dublin’s Eye and Ear Hospital.