The Joint Committee on Health and Children is disappointed at the decision by An Bord Pleanála to reject the planned development of the new Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
Speaking after the Committee meeting today, Chairman Jerry Buttimer said: “Given that six years of work and over €30 million has gone into this development we are disappointed with An Bord Pleanála’s decision. We welcome the Minister’s commitment at our meeting today to developing the National Children’s Hospital and his decision to appoint Frank Dolphin, former Chairman of the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, to chair a review group to examine this decision. The Committee indicated to the Minister that it is available to play an active role in assisting him and his Department in delivering this priority project.”
Members of the Committee expressed their dissatisfaction about the hospital situation to Minister for Health James Reilly, TD who attended today’s meeting.
The Minister for Health; Minister for State with responsibility for Primary Care; Minister of State, Department of Health and Department of Justice, Equality and Defence with responsibility for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People; and Cathal Magee, chief executive of the Health Service Executive (HSE) were before the Committee to discuss the issue of the impact of the incentivised early retirement scheme on the health sector.
The Committee was told at its meeting today that contingency plans are in place to deal with early retirement from the health service.
Deputy Buttimer TD said: “The Committee heard that detailed contingency plans have been developed for each hospital and community service and that these plans continue to be refined as additional information becomes available. The HSE said it aims to maintain essential frontline services such as emergency departments, intensive care, neo-natal and maternity services.”
At 16th February, the total number of staff who had indicated their intention to retire in the period September 2011 to February 2012 was 4,326, according to information supplied to the Committee. The HSE estimates that this would convert to approximately 3,800 Wholetime Equivalents but the actual WTE number will not be available until all retirements during this period have been analysed and appropriate calculation made.
Deputy Buttimer added: “I do think it is important to emphasise, that from what we have heard today it is clear that the numbers availing of this early retirement scheme – or “Grace period” – represent only 3.33% of whole time equivalent health service personnel.”
The Committee was told that a commitment to additional funding of €16 million has been allocated in the National Service Plan to replace some critical posts where there will be gaps in essential frontline services, such as maternity, paediatrics, emergency departments and intensive care. The HSE National Recruitment Service has put in place a number of recruitment panels, including nursing, midwives, mental health and psychiatric nurses, from which health services can draw to fill critical vacant posts.
The Committee was also told that a series of short-term measures are being put in place during and immediately after the retirement deadline, such as where required staff working overtime or postponing of staff leave. In some cases, agency staff may also be used where there is a critical service requirement.”
Deputy Buttimer concluded: “I am confident from what we have heard today, that contingency measures have been planned and put in place. However, planning for and dealing with early retirements is not a problem that ends on March 1st. I would suggest that there is need for a continual review of the contingency measures over the next six months. The HSE must be responsive to positive suggestions from all stakeholders during the initial adjustment period. Contingency planning, on-going reviews and co-operation between all parties can ensure the continued delivery of a quality and safe service.”