Nurses Furious Over HSE Absentee Figures

More than 40 nurses are absent from work every day because of ill health at one of the country’s busiest hospitals.

According to the Health Service Executive (HSE), the 42 nurses who report sick every day at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick are costing the health system €2m a year.

However, the country’s main nursing union has rejected the allegations, accusing the HSE of being “vindictive” in releasing misleading figures.

Irish Nurses Organisation Industrial Relations Officer, Mary Fogarty said the HSE claims were completely untrue and said it was “totally mischievous” for hospital managers to say so.

According to Ms Fogarty, an average of six Limerick nurses miss work on a daily basis due to illness.

There are 700 nurses employed at the busiest hospital in the Mid-West region and a loss of 42 workers would represent 6pc of the workforce.

The HSE claim that the nurses’ absenteeism improved in the first six months of this year when an average of 47 nurses were reporting sick daily.

“When statutory maternity and parental leave and training/study breaks are included, approximately 25pc or one-in-four nurses are not available for duty each day. The estimated sick leave cost is approximately €2m per year,” said a HSE spokesman.

However, Ms Fogarty said the HSE was manipulating figures.

“I have spoken with staff in the regional hospital about the absenteeism issue and they have told me that, on a daily basis, the number ringing in sick is between none and six,” she said.

Ms Fogarty acknowledged that some nurses were absent from work for long periods because of serious illness such as cancer and stress.

“It is a physically demanding job and the stress and strain is there for all to see. There is a high-stress level amongst nurses at the regional hospital and we have serious concerns in the attitude towards nursing by the hospital management,” she said.

“Why are they so vindictive towards us?”

“The figures the HSE are publishing take into account nurses on long-term leave with maternity-related problems, cancer or other such long-term illnesses.

“It’s not as if all these nurses are surprising management in the hospital by ringing every morning to say they’re not coming in,” said Ms Fogarty.

Last month, the HSE blamed staff absenteeism in the hospital for the closure of a surgical ward which resulted in the cancellation of 26 surgical admissions in the one week.