Irish Medical Organisation

HSE has only itself to blame for its €105m deficit: IMO

  • HSE failing to implement €200m cost-saving measures for consultants agreed with IMO
  • €30m cost-saving measures for NCHDs agreed with IMO as part of Haddington Road Agreement but not implemented
  • Patients should not be made pay for HSE management failings
  • Almost €100m could be saved by ending moratorium on hiring permanent staff instead of hiring locum doctors and nursing staff

Tuesday 20 August 2013 – The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has expressed grave concern at recent statements by the HSE on its projected €105m deficit for 2013 and called on the Government and the HSE to ensure that any measures taken to reduce the deficit do not impact further on patient care.

The IMO estimates the HSE is missing out on savings of up to €200m by failing to introduce new work practices with hospital consultants, which were agreed with the IMO in September 2012.

The IMO also estimates the HSE is foregoing further savings of more than €30m by failing to implement measures relating to the transfer of tasks from Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs) to nursing staff already agreed with the IMO and other unions under the Haddington Road Agreement.

“It is incredible that the HSE has failed to implement the changes for consultants and NCHDs agreed with the IMO that could save hundreds of millions of euro,” said Steve Tweed, IMO Director of Industrial Relations.

“The HSE has only itself to blame for the failure to achieve these savings. It cannot be allowed to make patients and health service staff pay for this failure by cutting frontline services and seeking more from already overstretched staff,” he said.

The HSE, IMO and two other unions have agreed under Haddington Road that certain tasks carried out by NCHDs would be transferred to nursing staff. The unions have been forced to refer the matter to the LRC due to the HSE’s lack of engagement and the LRC has agreed to chair a meeting with the HSE later this month.

The €30m savings that could be achieved from this agreement account for more than half the €53m shortfall the HSE claims will arise in the hospital system this year.

The IMO is concerned that:

  • Health Service workers and pay related issues are being blamed for the deficit at a time when these workers have taken substantial pay cuts and reduced benefits in addition to increasing their working hours;
  • The HSE will use the blunt instrument of cutting patient services - a short term panic measure that will inevitably lead to greater expenditure in the longer term;
  • Medical card patients and the integrity of the medical card application process will be negatively impacted.

Tweed warned the current moratorium on hiring new staff is making the HSE’s deficit worse and not better: “The moratorium on staffing levels has had the reverse effect that it hoped to achieve, as the HSE is currently spending €129m on locum doctors and nursing staff to fill essential posts. Almost €100m could be saved by filling these posts on a permanent basis.”

In addition, the HSE and Irish Government continue to expose the Irish taxpayer to the risk of fines of the order of hundreds of millions of euro by flouting the European Working Time Directive in respect of NCHDs.

“Negotiations with the IMO can resolve this issue and lead to reduced overtime costs. This would help the HSE’s budget pressure but, more importantly, put an end to doctors working dangerously long working hours that put them and their patients at risk,” said Tweed.

Tweed also said the HSE’s claims that some overruns in the Primary Care budget are due to professional fees put a major question mark over the FEMPI consultation process agreed in respect of professional fees.

“Despite previous denials it seems the Minister for Health had already decided the savings to be made each month under the cuts even before the consultation process began. This says a lot about the Minister’s view of the consultation process,” said Tweed.

“It is also telling that the HSE report that warns of overruns makes no references to whether the planned savings under Government proposals in respect of cost of drugs and other items have in fact been achieved. The proposed savings over the course of the year were to have been €160m – why has the HSE not referred to these savings in its budget forecast?”

- Ends

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