Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has expressed concern that the very low Government-imposed recruitment caps on the health service will undermine efforts to cut outsourcing and cut agency spending by €250 million.
Teachta Cullinane said that to reduce agency staffing, the HSE needs to increase direct employment. He said that the HSE is being limited to one-third the number of net additional staff in 2024 compared to previous years, which “does not add up” with efforts to cut agency staffing.
The TD for Waterford expressed support for efforts to reduce outsourcing, saying that the Government needs to review the health service’s budget for 2024 to ensure it is sufficiently supported to convert agency staff into direct employment and continue to grow the health workforce.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“Sinn Féin has said, for a long time, that the HSE is far too reliant on agency staffing and outsourcing. It is costly and inefficient, and we welcome that the Government has finally recognised this and changed its tune.
“But at the same time as the Government are asking the HSE to cut agency staff, it is severely limiting the HSE’s ability to recruit new staff. The HSE can only recruit one-third the number of net additional new staff as it has on average over the last three years.
“If you want to convert agency staff to direct employment, you need approved posts to employ them in. The Government’s plan of telling the HSE to cut agency staff and severely limiting the number of new staff it can recruit does not add up.
“The Government must revise the recruitment limits for 2024 and, if necessary, allocate specific posts for converting agency staff to direct employment.
“The Minister must also ensure that the HSE has enough posts to recruit all of the Irish healthcare graduates who will be looking to enter the workforce this summer. It would be a short-sighted disaster if the recruitment embargo meant that our graduates were forced into the private sector or abroad for employment.
“If efforts to cut outsourcing, cut management consultancy, and cut agency staffing are to succeed, the HSE needs to be able to directly provide those services. It cannot be done with an unrealistic cap on recruitment.
“Primary and community services are stretched and under-developed, which continues to place extra burdens on hospitals which won’t disappear just because the Government wants them to. They have their head in the sand on overcrowding and have not put the capacity in that hospitals need. All of these services need additional staff to deliver safe, quality, timely care and the ambition simply is not there at Government level.
“Agency staffing and outsourcing need to be reduced, but it cannot be done without a proper plan to convert these staff to HSE workers. Otherwise, hospital managers will be put in the position of having to cut agency staff without being able to increase direct employment, which will lead to difficult, avoidable decisions about what services need to be cut, and which patients will need to wait longer.”