Galway city councillor Mairéad Farrell, has expressed outrage at figures which show that in the past three years, the spend on agency staff at Galway University Hospital (GUH ) has nearly doubled on the same figure for the previous three years, bringing the total agency spend for 2011-2016 to €18 million.
Cllr Farrell said: “Over the last number of years the Government has been saying that it was saving money by having an embargo on recruitment in the health sector, but they were not. They were simply outsourcing it. Rather than directly employing people in the public sector they were outsourcing procedures and hiring agency staff.
“In the three year period from 2011-2013, a very significant €6.8 million was spent on agency staff at University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park Hospital. This figure for the three subsequent years 2014-2016, however, rose to €11.2 million.
“The fact is that the reliance on agency staff has increased due to the mismanagement of hospitals across the country by the HSE and lack of investment from the Government. Worryingly, it also illustrates an obvious move towards privatisation of our health service and the erosion of working conditions for medical professionals committed to working in the public sector.
“The enormity of this spend on agency staff at Galway University Hospital can be contrasted with the pitiful investment in alleviating chronic overcrowding in our hospitals. According to the INMO, there were 149 patients on hospital trolleys and in overflow wards over the course of last week at University Hospital Galway.
“Rather than throw good money after bad at expensive private agency staff, we need proper long-term investment in our health institutions to ensure quality treatment for patients and a reduction in the numbers on waiting lists.
“The Government must, as a matter of urgency, establish an emergency department taskforce on a permanent basis to deal with the crisis at hand. We must increase the number of hospital beds, nursing home beds, and home help hours. We must also invest in community services, the under-resourcing of which means that people currently end up in hospital when they could and should be cared for in the community.”