TD To Question HSE On Winter Preparedness Of The Health System

TD to question HSE on winter preparedness of the health system if shoddy recruitment and treatment of staff not addressed at Oireachtas Health Committee today

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny will today question the HSE’s Paul Reid on the preparedness of the Irish Health System for dealing with non-Covid and Covid care over winter.

The TD will cite the recruitment process and treatment of workers in the health service at today’s committee meeting.

He will say: “The winter plan speaks of robust recruitment and points to the importance of safe working environments and the wellbeing of staff. However, there is ample evidence demonstrating that recruitment is far from robust and the safety and wellbeing of staff in the health sector is seriously compromised. Only 7,000, of those 73,000 who interviewed for the Call for Ireland, were interviewed and only a couple of hundred have actually started work. Many have never so much as received an acknowledgement to their application, never mind been recruited into the system.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that workers recruited through a private recruitment company found it to be an arduous recruitment process and some workers who received three-month contracts are being let go without any advance notice. Others are not being paid.

“In this committee two weeks ago, we heard that there were only 274 new hires into testing and contact tracing and that we were aiming for 800 by year end. A very ambitious target particularly when we consider the Winter Plan aims for full recruitment by end of November: ‘new staff are assumed to be ramped up to 20% of baseline levels in September, 70% in October and to 100% of baseline level by November 2020’ (Winter Plan, HSE, 2020, p. 26 ).

Deputy Kenny will also raise the ongoing issues concerning student nurses.

He will say: “Student nurses are being expected to plug holes in the Public Health System and are to do this without pay and at very serious risk. Ireland has one of the highest rates of Covid infections among health care workers with hundreds out on long term leave due to Covid related issues. I want to find out from the HSE how many health care workers are long term absent from work due to Covid related issues?

Finally, Deputy Kenny will ask about testing that has been referred to private laboratories, workers issues at these labs, and the number of private laboratories that are availing of the Wage Subsidy Scheme.

He will say: “Not only are we outsourcing much of the testing to private laboratories, but again anecdotal evidence suggests that workers in the public medical laboratories are moving to the private labs as pay and conditions are more attractive to them. And who could blame them with the cost of living, especially housing, having spiralled out of control.”