Memo reveals plan to cut half agency jobs in northeast hospitals


UP TO 174 agency staff jobs could go from hospitals in counties Louth and Meath under draft cost-saving proposals drawn up by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The reduction in agency staff under consideration would necessitate a reduction of 20 acute medical beds in Drogheda, the transfer of neonatology and paediatrics from the region and an end to 75 per cent of elective theatre activity, a leaked internal memo indicates.

The memo was leaked to Sinn Féin Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín, who described the proposals as damning and claimed they would create serious risk to patient care in the region.

However, the HSE said last night the memo was not a risk assessment document but an “internal management tool” designed to aid decision-making.

“This was an initial draft document and has no current status,” according to a spokeswoman.

The HSE, which is €250 million over budget so far this year, is under strong pressure from Minister for Health James Reilly to curb spending without reducing services.

Dr Reilly has identified the €250 million annual spend on agency staff as an area where significant savings could be made.

The document, which is marked “strictly private and confidential – not for circulation”, assesses the impact of a 50 per cent reduction in agency staff on the Louth Meath Hospital Group.

This would include the closure of the equivalent of half a ward in Navan hospital, as well as increased delays in the emergency department and longer waiting lists for orthopaedics.

Mr Tóibín, who is chairman of the Save Navan Hospital Group, said the proposals should be scrapped and called for the replacement of agency staff with full-time HSE staff.

The HSE said there would be an increased focus on eliminating overtime for the rest of 2012 and on significantly reducing the use of agency staffing, maximising income collection and the ongoing management of absenteeism.

“This will be a robust process towards safeguarding unscheduled care and minimising any impact on patient services,” the spokeswoman said. “Every effort will continue to be made to do that in a way that has the least impact on patients and clients.”

Any significant changes to service levels would be discussed first with staff and their representatives, the HSE said.