HSE Staffing Probe Shows Inequalities

A NEW report on staffing levels in the Health Service Executive is expected to expose widespread geographical discrepancies, with some regions employing too many administrators and managers and others not enough.

The report, due to be published within weeks, audited thousands of managers/ administrators across the country to find out if the health authority is top heavy with clerical staff.

It examined not only their numbers but also compared findings with other countries to establish if the HSE’s ratio of administrators to front-line staff is “out of kilter”.

Health sources said the report is not expected to find vast numbers of bureaucrats with nothing to do. Instead it is expected to highlight discrepancies in the numbers of staff employed in different regions.

The distribution of staff is a hangover from the old system of autonomous regional health boards, which hired staff at their own discretion.

The health authority, which employs 111,505 people, has been accused of employing too many bureaucrats and administrators and not enough front-line health workers.

The most recent staffing figures for December 2007 show that managers/administrators — who include consultants’ secretaries, receptionists and clerical workers — account for the highest number of HSE employees after nurses. The figures also highlight regional inequalities.

In Dublin/Mid Leinster, for instance, nurses accounted for 32 per cent of staff while administrators accounted for 17 per cent.

In comparison, the HSE South fared better with nurses accounting for 37 per cent of staff and administrators accounting for 14 per cent. Professor Brendan Drumm announced the staff review last year in response to those criticisms, promising that it would assess the level of clerical, managerial and administrative staff working in the HSE.

News of the report’s imminent publication comes as Mary Harney, the Health Minister, raised the prospect of a voluntary redundancy scheme for the unwieldy organisation.

During a Dail debate on cancer services, Ms Harney remarked: “If people in areas of administration or management are superfluous to requirements and there are shortages elsewhere, we should take a bold and innovative approach and consider introducing a redundancy programme”.

She said people should have been offered redundancy when the HSE was first formed in 2005, but politicians and unions opposed the move.

Jimmy Deenihan, the Fine Gael TD, said discrepancies in staff numbers were glaringly obvious in his own constituency of Kerry North, which falls in the HSE’s southern region.

He said 35,000 people go through accident and emergency in Kerry General Hospital, Tralee, each year while 37,000 go through St Vincent’s in Dublin.

Yet Tralee’s unit is run by 26 nurses and seven doctors, while the south Dublin hospital’s emergency unit is staffed by 100 nurses and 26 doctors.

Far from making staff redundant, he said at least 80 extra nurses were needed in Tralee, which is due to lose its cancer services to Cork, set to be designated as a specialist centre of excellence.

More than 200 people turned out to protest at the feared downgrading of hospital services at a public meeting on Thursday.