Reilly rules out staff pay cuts
Health Minister James Reilly appears to have ruled out cutting actual rates of pay in the health service in order to tackle the HSE's massive deficit.
The Minister had previously said a choice had to be made between cutting patient services and and looking at the €800 million currently spent in the health service in areas such as overtime, allowances and premium pay.
Health unions, however, had warned that cutting these payments would be seen as a breach of the Croke Park Agreement.
The Minister, speaking yesterday at the launch of new HIQA standards for safer healthcare, said he was examining how he could cut the overtime premium pay bill by changes in rostering, "not necessarily looking at the rate itself, but looking at the rosters that people are working, and our over-reliance on agency staff as well."
Dr Reilly said he very concerned about the health budget at the moment, but he did not want to see any cuts to services where they were avoidable and where savings could be made elsewhere.
"70% of our bill is pay and we have to look at ways of reducing that bill - there are lots of ways of doing that including more efficient rostering, more efficient use of staff, having a better skill mix."
The Minister said there were some major hospitals that had nine nurses per healthcare assistant whereas other hospitals had three.
"We also have a situation where in some of our community nursing units we are struggling to achieve a ratio of one nurse to one healthcare assistant, whereas the Royal College of Nursing tells us we should have one nurse to two- and-a-half healthcare assistants."
"So there is an awful lot of room for improvement and I think Croke Park can deliver that, so I still stand over what I say. I don't want to be cutting services when there are other areas of efficiency that can be achieved."
He said absenteeism was another issue that needed to be examined.
All these things have to be looked at. I want to examine those more closely than than closing beds and cancelling outpatients. "If 18% of your pay bill is not core pay, you have to look at how you can reduce that. That doesn't mean looking at the rate itself."
Asked how waiting list and ED trolley reduction targets can be met if hospitals were being told to reduce their activity to stay within budget, the Minister said he would shortly be launching a new intermediate care programme.
This would mean that frail elderly people coming into hospitals would go to a ward where their immediate medical problems would be resolved. They would then start rehabilitation and then if necessary they would then be moved to an immediate care facility.
Patients would therefore be treated far more efficiently, far more effectively and with far better outcomes, he said.
Money had been set aside to fund these beds in the community, the Minister said.
[Posted: Wed 27/06/2012]