Over 300 contract staff may lose jobs in hospitals, union warns


MORE THAN 300 contract staff may be let go from Irish hospitals by November 1st this year, according to the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO).

INO industrial relations officer Tony Fitzpatrick said after meeting with the HSE this week, there were suggestions that more than 300 staff would not have their contract renewed or have their contracts terminated by November 1st. “The HSE indicated in the meeting that a total upwards of 300 will be let go from clerical and nursing positions but mostly from PCCC (Primary Community Continuous Care) services around Ireland by November.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said 46 contract staff, including 26 nurses, dealing with services in the Dublin North East region will be let go by November 1st this year.

The 46 nurses work in PCCC services, which deal primarily with elderly services in the community and hospitals. Mr Fitzpatrick said staff with work contracts beyond November would also face cuts due to a clause in their temporary contracts. “Assuming that the compulsory one week’s minimum notice of dismissal must be given, the 46 staff will be given their notice by the end of September.”

He added: “Acute frontline services are going to be affected by the staff vacancies that cannot be filled because of the Government’s embargo in March. There are beds and wards lying empty because there simply isn’t enough staff to deal with full capacity.

“There has been an increase in demand on health services because so many more people are now eligible for a medical card and the HSE wants hospitals to do more work with less staff. With further cuts of €800 million planned, it is doubtful if the health service will recover,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Mary Fogarty, INO industrial officer in the mid-western region, said the HSE had suggested laying off 150 staff, mainly from PCCC services, by the end of the year to allow for 100 higher grade positions to be filled.

“The HSE are talking about letting go of 150 healthcare staff from the mid-western region to enable them to bring in 100 higher grade staff such as radiographers.” The Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle, Limerick, would be closing its doors to student nurses after September next, Ms Fogarty added.

“Closing the doors on student nurses will, without doubt, lead to bed closures. Dooradoyle hospital in Limerick alone takes up to 60 student nurses, but will cease when this year’s work placement nurses return to college in September.” Ms Fogarty suggested that other hospitals would also have to turn away student nurses after September.

A spokesman for the HSE Mid-West said Dooradoyle would take on student nurses again in January but the situation was uncertain. “There is no guarantee of employment for graduating nurses in 2009, nor is there any such guarantee for any graduates in either the health area, or any other part of the public sector. However, there are some service developments that are being progressed in 2009.

“The current arrangements with the higher education institutes do not provide an arrangement for the HSE to provide a guarantee to nursing students of employment on successful completion of the pre-registration programme. “There has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of nurses employed in the public health services over the past 10 years. Additionally, research conducted by Fás indicates that the nurse to population ratio in this country is 12.2 nurses per 1,000 population, as opposed to an average of 8.5 nurses per 1,000 population in the EU.”

A degree student nurse with a 12-month rostered placement earns €25,500 on average; over €6,000 less than a staff nurse and over €13,000 less than a senior nurse.