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June 25, 2016

A ‘post code lottery’ on staffing due to embargo

By Gary Culliton.

There is now a ‘post code lottery’ where certain areas have their full complement of personnel and others have a significant deficit as a result of the staff recruitment embargo, the new President of the IMO Dr Matt Sadlier believes.

Regional statistics showed that the recruitment embargo was affecting some parts of the country massively, said Dr Sadlier.

Ireland’s health service was “near the bottom of the league” internationally in regard to specialist numbers, Sligo-based Dr Seamus Healy added, as the IMO called on the HSE to publish details of medical staffing deficits in the acute hospital sector on a regular basis.

One of the difficulties with the recruitment embargo was that while there may be shortages of perhaps 10 per cent in regard to certain categories of personnel, some teams were entirely without this type of professional, Dr Sadlier said: “Staff leave in a non-planned way — under the terms of the recruitment embargo.”

It was necessary to define what the numbers needed were, Dr Niall Kelly from Limerick pointed out.  Many of the teams are run at substandard levels, particularly in the area of multidisciplinary medicine, which involves social workers, speech therapists, OTs and physiotherapists, he said. “We need to know exactly how may professionals we need before we can work out how many are missing.”

“While it may be possible to get the HSE to publish numbers on staffing deficits, we may have to question the accuracy of such numbers,” suggested Dr John Duddy from Temple Street Hospital. “They seem unable to count the number of patients on trolleys in emergency departments. It would be fair to assume that they would be unable to establish the extent of the deficiency in doctors.”

There is a need for a body such as the former Comhairle na nOispidéal to establish what are appropriate manpower levels, said Dr Healy. There was the immediate problem of the current specialist numbers deficit and — in addition — a shortfall in comparison to future best practice staff complement projections, he added.

The IMO is asking for “transparency” on a regular basis in the matter of medical staff deficiencies across all categories of medical practitioners.  Timely information is crucial, as a result of pressures on remuneration, difficulties in recruiting and caps on manpower, Dr Healy said. “It is important to have facts out in the open.”