Harney Denies Plan To Axe 1,000 Jobs In Health Sector

EMBATTLED Health Minister Mary Harney yesterday insisted there are currently no plans to axe 1,000 bureaucratic jobs in the Health Service Executive.

The HSE has recommended to the Department of Health and the Department of Finance that 200 senior management jobs and 800 lower-level clerical and administrative positions go as part of a voluntary redundancy programme.

The redundancy package would cost €30m, according to estimates by the HSE.

Last night, the country’s biggest public sector union, IMPACT, claimed patients would “pay the price” if the proposed programme is introduced. It further argued the health service is already under enough strain without taking away a “vital cog in the wheel”.

However, Ms Harney said that while she fully supported the idea of “appropriate staff ratios”, it would be premature to speculate on job cuts.

Any redundancies would be voluntary if the need arose and would have to be approved by the HSE and Cabinet, she said.

“Clearly, if there are staff in one area who are superfluous to requirements and there are shortages in another area, in the first we have to redeploy people,” she said.

“But the matter of redundancy, which would have to be voluntary, would be a matter for the Government at the end of the day and it would be premature to speculate on whether or not we would have a voluntary redundancy programme in the health service.”

The review of HSE structures, which has been undertaken by consultants McKinsey in recent months, was described as a “mammoth exercise” by Ms Harney. The HSE is also understood to be undertaking its own review of manpower planning.

“Until the appropriate structure is put in place, and the work of McKinsey and the HSE management and the board of the HSE is completed, it would be completely inappropriate to speculate on what might happen after that,” she added.

Ms Harney also claimed that figures showing 16pc of HSE staff in administrative roles was equal to that of the health services in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.

Labour health spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan last night said a voluntary early retirement, redundancy and redeployment scheme is needed in the HSE, but it must be part of a coherent and more fundamental reform.

“The HSE is not working. There is a crisis of confidence in the organisation among patients and staff. It is the direct result of Mary Harney’s poorly designed and rushed establishment of the HSE in the first place,” she said.

“That, three and a half years later, the organisation itself is looking to shed 1,000 staff, including 200 managers, is a clear statement as to how badly handled the whole process was.”

National Secretary of IMPACT Kevin Callinan also suggested that the programme to shed 1,000 jobs may have been suggested to distract from the real problems at the heart of the health service.

The trade union also claims that any programme would be a breach of an agreement between the HSE and Impact that stated there would be no redundancies in any staffing reassessment plan.

“We don’t believe the answers to the health service’s problems are to cut jobs,” said Mr Callinan.