A local Fianna Fáil councillor is seeking urgent answers from the HSE regarding the hiring of agency staff at University Hospital Galway. The call comes after information released to the party revealed that 82 per cent of the HSE’s agency staff budget was used up by the end of May.
Councillor Mary Hoade says it is extremely worrying that the HSE has used more than 80 per cent of its agency budget in the first five months of the year. She believes this figure highlights the fact that the budget for the health service this year was completely unrealistic. “This could have a huge impact on services here in Galway and across the country in the winter months. August is traditionally one of the quietest months for the health service but according to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, there were 6,500 patients treated on trolleys in hospitals across the country last month. That’s 40 per cent higher than the same month last year.’’
In correspondence with Fianna Fáil the HSE has warned that the medical staff portion of its agency budget is the part that is under the greatest pressure because premium cost is highest, and when it comes to frontline workers, ‘inability to attract and retain is the key issue’.
Cllr Hoade says she has submitted detailed questions to the HSE to get a better sense of the picture in Galway. “There are serious staff shortages and when the Emergency Department in Galway is too crowded it has a major impact on the hospital. I am aware that elective surgeries have had to be postponed simply because the necessary support staff aren’t there. I have asked the HSE how many nurses are coming on stream for Galway and am keen to learn how many are coming from overseas. There is real concern that the Government’s incentive package to attract new nurses into the country, or attract back nurses that have left, is not good enough to meet competition from other countries.“
The Department of Health and the HSE are currently working on the health service plan and budget for next year. Cllr Hoade says the needs of University Hospital Galway must not be lost in this process. “Minister Varadkar must ensure that the health budget and the service plan for next year are grounded in reality. We need a comprehensive strategy in place that delivers for patients and unfortunately this Government have not proven themselves capable of achieving that for the last four years.”