Staff our Services and end the HSE Recruitment Freeze – SIPTU

In the public health sector, dedicated healthcare workers strive daily to provide essential care and support to the nation’s citizens. However, the persistent challenge of understaffing, resulting from the HSE’s decision to implement a recruitment freeze until the end of 2023, threatens the very foundation of our healthcare system. It compromises the quality of the service and places an immense strain on those who tirelessly serve the community. It is critical that enough staff are employed in the Irish public health service, not just so we can provide support to healthcare services, but to ensure we are providing the best possible care to those in our society.

SIPTU has met with HSE CEO Bernard Gloster, as part of the Staff Panel of Unions, to discuss the recruitment freeze. The Union side raised concerns about its potential broader impact on the delivery of care. SIPTU noted that the recruitment freeze will impact patient facing roles such as health care assistants, health care support assistants, support staff, paramedics, and diagnostics. The Union side also conveyed a worry that the recruitment freeze will only add to the challenges that will be faced by staff during the winter season – a period when attendances traditionally increase, and staffing numbers are usually impacted by staff illnesses.

The Union side also noted that the freeze will have a direct and negative impact on the delivery of the HSE’s own objectives and expansion of services. Despite the above points being raised by Unions, the HSE’s position has not changed with regards to the recruitment freeze, to date.

Healthcare is undeniably a human-centric profession, dependent on the dedication and expertise of its workforce. The impact of understaffing is felt acutely by our members on the frontlines. Working extended hours, battling fatigue, and managing overwhelming caseloads, these individuals are the backbone of our healthcare system, and their well-being is intrinsically linked to the quality of care they can provide.

The correlation between staffing levels of all grades within the health service; and the quality of patient care cannot be overstated. Adequate staffing ensures that those working in healthcare can devote sufficient time to each patient, fostering better communication, comprehensive assessments, and personalised treatment plans. By investing in the adequate staffing, the HSE can not only prioritise the health and well-being of patients but also uphold the integrity of our healthcare system.
The toll of understaffing on healthcare workers is profound, both personally and professionally. Long working hours, high-stress environments, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility can lead to burnout and negatively impact mental health. A workforce that feels supported, with manageable workloads and adequate staffing, is better equipped to deliver the high standard of care that the Irish public deserves. Moreover, a satisfied and fulfilled workforce is more likely to stay within the profession, contributing to the stability and continuity of our healthcare system.

The HSE must staff our services; and end the recruitment freeze. A commitment to hiring enough staff is a commitment to the health and well-being of our healthcare workers and our communities.

Press Statement on behalf of the Staff Panel group of unions of the National Joint Council RE Extension of Recruitment Freeze

The Staff Panel group of unions of the National Joint Council in the Irish Health Service was this morning (Friday) informed of the intention of HSE CEO Mr Bernard Gloster to announce the recruitment embargo on all appointments of staff in the HSE to be extended until the 31st of December 2023.

This follows the extension announced earlier this year for clerical and support grades in the Irish health system. The recruitment embargo will now apply across all grades with the exception of 2023 graduate nurses and consultants.

The Staff Panel group of unions have stated they were not consulted on this extension of the embargo, and that this is in breach of the requirement for proper consultation with the unions in relation to such matters.

The Staff Panel also stated that the effect of this embargo and the freezing of appointments will be to encourage healthcare staff to seek employment abroad.

The group of unions has today requested an urgent meeting with the HSE but state that the HSE has declined to meet with them on this matter. The unions will be consulting with their respective executive councils and members on their response to this announcement.

Kevin Figgis, SIPTU Health Division said
“This decision will cripple departments as they struggle to prepare for the busy winter period. Our members are already carrying deficits due to existing vacancies and to have recruitment come to a sudden stop, without any notice, will render many services unable to meet the growing demand for service over the coming weeks.”

Speaking on this announcement INMO Director of Industrial Relations Albert Murphy said
“This is playing into the hands of other countries such as the UK and Australia who will be only too delighted to offer full time permanent secure jobs to nurses and other healthcare professionals”

Anthony Owens, from the IMO said
“Medical teams all over the country are short staffed and the recruitment freeze on doctors and other healthcare staff will significantly and negatively impact on patient care. We are seriously concerned that this proposal will lead to worsening conditions for patients and doctors which is all the more disastrous as we head into Winter.”

Ashley Connolly, National Secretary, Fórsa said:

“The HSE’s decision to cap all recruitment will have a considerable impact on health service delivery as we enter the winter, a time when more pressure is placed on our health services. In addition, the additional uncertainty will leave Fórsa members considering their futures within the health service.”

Terry Casey, of the MLSA, stated
“This decision will compound the recruitment and retention crisis in laboratories and will severely impact the ability of medical scientists and all healthcare staff to deliver the health services that Irish patients need. At a time when there is global shortage of healthcare staff, the HSE should be striving to be an employer of choice rather than withdrawing offers of employment.”

SIPTU seeks “urgent” meeting with HSE over recruitment freeze

SIPTU Health Division has called for an urgent meeting with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Department of Health following the decision to implement a recruitment freeze on many grades represented by the union within the health service.

The freeze was revealed in a HSE memo, released today, which confirmed that grades such as Health Care Assistants, Healthcare Support Assistants (or Home Helps), porters, catering assistants, chefs, security personnel and others will all be affected by the decision.

The union said that such a freeze would also affect agency staff, who have traditionally been used to fill vacant posts, maternity leave or long-term sick leave within the healthcare workforce.

Kevin Figgis, SIPTU Divisional Organiser, said: “The decision to implement a recruitment freeze on many of the grades represented by our union has come as a great shock to our members. Many of the grades affected are patient-facing and there will be an inevitable knock-on effect on services.

“What is most alarming about this decision is that we are fast approaching the difficult winter period. Services already struggle to contain the pressures which invariably arise. Our members will now face an impossible situation if a recruitment freeze prohibits the refilling of a vacant patient-facing post within the acute setting or community healthcare.”

Damian Ginley, SIPTU Sector Organiser, said: “Our members provide direct care to patients in hospital or through the community in services such as Healthcare Support Assistants. Their patients and service users are some of the most vulnerable people in society and also some of the most in need of support.

“The HSE has recently stated its wish to extend service provision across the weekend. The decision today will stop any of those plans in their tracks as existing staff are under enough pressure as it is.”