Harris suggests some hospitals chiefs have not ‘bothered’ submitting plans for services

Minister insists no recruitment embargo in place in health service

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the HSE would fill approximately 2,000 additional approved and funded development posts this year. File photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the HSE would fill approximately 2,000 additional approved and funded development posts this year. File photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

Some hospital groups or healthcare community area managers have not bothered to submit plans for operating their services within approved budgets, the Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

The Minister insisted that it was the failure of some health service chiefs to submit such plans had led to the introduction of restrictions on recruitment in certain areas.

Mr Harris said neither he nor new HSE director general Paul Reid believed the introduction of these measures represented a “recruitment embargo” in the health service.

The Minister said in the Dáil on Wednesday that hospital groups and community healthcare organisations across the HSE needed to live within their allocated budget.

This was an almost identical stance to the position of Mr Reid who, in an internal memo to senior HSE managers on Tuesday, said the health service would no longer spend money it did not have and breaching budgets “can no longer be considered an option”.

Mr Harris said: “It should not be seen as a radical concept that when the House (Dáil) passes a budget which allows for the hiring of a certain number of additional staff, hospital managers across the country and others are expected to live within those budgets.”

He said where individual hospital groups or community healthcare organisations (CHOs) have not submitted staffing plans in line with their budgets, “certain measures and controls regarding recruitment have been put in place”.

“If a hospital or CHO puts a plan in place that is in line with its budget and the plan is approved, it can conduct recruitment but if it has not bothered to produce a plan it cannot simply make up its recruitment plans willy-nilly.”

Embargo

However, Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly insisted that there was a recruitment embargo in place.

Mr Harris argued that the HSE would fill approximately 2,000 additional approved and funded development posts this year.

Ms O’Reilly maintained that what was increasing was expenditure on personnel provided through employment agencies and that this was costing more money per hour than directly-employed staff.

In his memo to senior health service mangers on Tuesday, Mr Reid said the HSE needed to communicate clearly that there was no recruitment embargo or moratorium in place nor was there a ban on agency or overtime.

“There is a priority requirement for all services to maintain, or get to, an affordable staffing level that is sustainable in 2019 and 2020, while also prioritising the delivery of safe services,” he said. “In order to assist with that objective a period of consolidation is in place pending submission, endorsement and evidence of traction on, financial and staffing plans.”

“ During that period of consolidation, which is targeted to last for as short a period as possible for each individual service (three months to circa end June was the intention per the strategy), only development posts as referenced above can proceed, unless exempted by the relevant national director. Agency and overtime can also proceed but is subject to a cap,” he said.