By Gary Culliton.
“Olympic absenteeism” — a phrase coined by the Secretary General of the Department of Health, Dr Ambrose McLoughlin — was 11 per cent in the context of one hospital, it has emerged.
The cost of replacement of HSE staff absent last year is estimated to be €11.4 million and this pattern has not changed significantly over the past four years, he stated.
Absenteeism in the health system was neither affordable nor sustainable, Dr McLoughlin told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee.
From next year, the HSE will be only funding replacement of staff “at the acceptable level of absenteeism, in respect of which our national target is 3.5 per cent” the HSE Director General designate Tony O’Brien told the Committee last week.
O’Brien said the HSE was putting “a sharp focus” on the issue.
“I am aware of other services in respect of which absenteeism has reached 9 per cent. These levels are totally unacceptable,” added Dr McLoughlin. “We are targeting a 3.5 per cent figure across the system. We want to work closely with the staff associations in tackling this issue, which will be a serious challenge.”
Dr McLoughlin noted that a “significant arrangement” under the Labour Court had been negotiated by the Department of Public Expenditure in regard to sick leave entitlements, “which have literally been halved”.