The HSE West will make a saving of €19.2 million in 2011 due to the continuation of the ban on recruitment.
While the moratorium continues this year, the health service will have to provide the same level of service but with fewer staff.
Already 421 staff have left the service in the west due to the voluntary early retirement scheme which was rolled out late last year and the challenge for hospital managers is how to maintain services when frontline workers are moving out of the system, a meeting of the HSE West forum was told on Tuesday.
Unions have already expressed outrage at the decision of the HSE to cut the pay of agency staff by up to 70 per cent. At present, agency staff are paid on the 10th point of the nurses pay scale, regardless of their experience.
In future, those with less than two years’ experience will be paid at the bottom of the new lower scale, while others will be paid at the fifth point on the scale.
There will also be reductions in premium payments.
These measures are expected to save the service up to €1 million in the west area alone.
Nursing levels in Mayo General Hospital is one area that is being affected, Mayo Fine Gael representative on the forum Councillor Seamus Weir told the meeting.
In the Castlebar hospital Cllr Weir said each nurse has to look after 30 patients, while wards remain closed.
John Hennessy, regional director of operations, HSE West, explained that the challenge posed by the moratorium is something the service is “trying to grapple” with through the use of the Croke Park Agreement. “However, there will be pockets, like nursing in Castlebar, that will have to come up with solutions,” the director added.