Taoiseach’s comments on HSE staff


Sir, – While the Taoiseach seeks to lay blame for critical hospital staff shortages at the door of doctors and nurses hoping to take annual leave over the Christmas period, it is interesting that he states that hospitals “should operate at full whack” during the winter months.

A novel suggestion but should hospitals not operate at “full whack” during all four seasons?

Why, oh why, might it be that they are not?

The reality is glaringly simple.

Over 20 per cent of consultant posts are unfilled, over 169 nursing posts are currently vacant in emergency departments alone. The total number of unfilled nursing posts is likely petrifying.

The number of vacant non-consultant hospital doctor (NCHD) posts are unavailable at present.

A review of vacancies advertised on HSE and hospital websites shows NCHD vacancies in almost every hospital in the country.

Our hospitals are understaffed, reliant on agency and locum staff, who only work the hours they wish to work. Hours they wish to work are unlikely to be Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day.

Most staff already have systems in place where annual leave is not allowed over the festive period due to the fact that, quite predictably, agency and locum staff will not make themselves available for this period.

Has Mr Varadkar any thought as to why the HSE is so reliant on agency and locum staff? Thoughts on pay, conditions, impossible work environment?

Could he share his insight into why punishing those of us idiotic enough to continue working in this system is a positive step?

Surely it is time for another photo-opportunity with some of our hard-working paramedic colleagues.

Perhaps the Taoiseach could do the Christmas shift with them? – Yours, etc,


Senior Registrar,

Cork University Hospital.

Sir, – In suggesting that hospitals would have more staff available if doctors and nurses refrained from taking their holidays, the Taoiseach has hit on a bold new strategy for solving problems in the health service and indeed in society at large: wishful thinking.

For example, he could have gone on to say that there would be fewer patients on trolleys if people stopped getting sick, that there would be no homelessness if everybody had a house, that criminality would not exist if people stopped breaking the law and that climate change would not be an issue if it wasn’t for the weather. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 9.

Sir, – Not long ago, we were all appalled that Ryanair had not taken crew leave arrangements into account when scheduling flights and some flights were cancelled.

Yet this is a frequent excuse when hospital appointments are cancelled or postponed.

Why is it not reasonable for the Taoiseach to ask hospital authorities and medical staff to be mindful of the need for coverage at busy periods to prevent cancellations of essential treatment? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – Leo Varadkar has suddenly decided that the annual trolley crisis is actually due to hard-working doctors and nurses taking Christmas holidays, just as the housing crisis is actually caused by people undertaking short-term lettings of their own private property.

This Government seems determined to create division in an already divided society by demonising some health professionals and private property owners, creating a smokescreen of excuses and spin to mask its own incompetence and broken election promises. I await the inevitable blame for the structural issues in some schools to be attributed to the number of students actually turning up every day, or some such guff.

Perhaps if TDs themselves cut back on their own lavish holiday leave entitlements, they might find time to address our many crises. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.