Donegal Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has warned that Donegal’s health service will be hurt again by the Government’s plans to freeze recruitment and overtime for three months.
The cost-cutting measures, which emerged in a HSE letter this week, have been slammed as ‘idiotic’ by the Sinn Féin Senator.
Senator Mac Lochlainn said: “The decision to suspend recruitment in the HSE in 2007 has been the root of a lot of the staffing problems in the health service in Donegal currently, so it baffles me that the Minister would go down this road again, even for a three-month period.
“Penalising hospitals like Letterkenny for spending on healthcare, while at the same time failing to invest adequately in primary care, is unfair and unsustainable.
“Furthermore, to announce to Irish medical and healthcare professionals who are living abroad and may be thinking of returning home that the health service is suspending recruitment is ridiculous.”
MacLochlainn said that the overtime ban will have the worst impact on the health service and called for clarity on the impending changes.
He said: “It is an overtime ban which will cause significant damage to the health service. Due to staffing problems as a result of the recruitment and retention crisis, the health service can only function because nurses, doctors, radiologists, physiotherapists, and others work overtime.
“Often, they do not want to work this overtime, but they do it because they have to out of a duty to their patients.
“This overtime will still have to be worked in order to ensure there is adequate staffing levels to provide patient safety and essential services – the Minister must explain if staff who have to work overtime because they cannot leave patients or wards will be paid for that overtime.”
The local impact of the measures could be far-reaching in Donegal, warned Senator MacLochlainn: “We already know that the outrageous overspend on the National Children’s Hospital has hurt health services in Donegal with reports of less theatre time at our major hospital and growing waiting lists. And there is no doubt that key projects will be delayed and even lost in time.
“Now, the Minister announces this ill -conceived recruitment and overtime ban
“No one is claiming that there is not a need to have sensible and controlled budgets in the health service, as well as implementing sensible structural changes and the rolling out of cost saving measures, but to regress to the point where you freeze recruitment and ban overtime is quite frankly idiotic.”