The decision by clerical staff in the Regional and Merlin Park Hospitals to avail of the redundancy package offered by the HSE West will leave consultants and doctors without essential secretarial and clerical staff
Councillor Catherine Connolly said she has the most serious concerns in relation to the numbers and grades of clerical staff who have availed of the redundancy package offered by the HSE West.
She said that the position before the redundancy package was bad enough with over 25,000 people on outpatients list for the various specialities in the Regional Hospital waiting up to five years with a further 5,000 people waiting on the outpatient lists for Merlin Park- but with the vacancies created by these redundancies the position will be impossible.
“Indeed when Dr O’Keefe, the Clinical Director of the Hospitals was asked (at a press conference with local representatives and members of the Health Forum in September 2010 ) why extra clinics could not be put on to deal with the huge waiting lists, he said –that would be impossible because of lack of clerical staff,” she said.
Councillor Connolly said that as far as she is aware that 51 clerical employees in the Regional and Merlin Park Hospitals between grades Grade Three and Grade Eight have availed of the early redundancy package and will not be returning to work in the hospitals next Tuesday.
Further she said so far there has been no communication from Dr O’Keefe and/or HSE West Management with Health Forum Councillors as to how the vacancies created will be dealt with.
In this regard she said it is particularly worrying that the vast majority of those who took the package are on grades three and four and not middle or senior management posts.
In effect this means that the most hard working and most experienced clerical staff have now gone with no one to replace them leaving doctors and consultants with no secretaries to type and send reports to GPs, to arrange waiting lists for patients and/or to communicate with patients.
In addition there are no plans to replace any of the clerical staff who will be going out on maternity leave in 2011.
“Clearly the situation in the Hospitals as and from Tuesday will be just intolerable,” said Cllr Connolly. “Not only will it be impossible for consultants to begin to clear the existing patients waiting lists but they will not even be in a position to send appointments to the patients due to be seen.
She said it is time for Dr O’Keefe to stand over his words last September when he said ‘He could not stand over any further cuts that would endanger patients’ safety’ and she will be seeking a response from him..
Further she will also raise the issue as a matter of urgency at the Health Forum meeting in January 2011.