The Health Service Executive West has reported that 126 staff members have had a stress-related referral to occupational health services in the first three months of this year, Cllr. Gerry Crawford has learned.
The HSE confirmed to Cllr. Crawford that stress was either the primary or secondary reason for the referral, and said the figures related both to work-related stress and non-work related stress.
Cllr. Crawford, who had initially questioned the amount of stress-related leave in the HSE West last November, said he believes the HSE should keep track of these incidents.
“I think it’s important the HSE would send an ongoing report to see whether the problem is static, getting worse or improving, and hopefully the conditions that would cause such incidents may improve,” Cllr. Crawford said.
In November 2015, Cllr. Crawford, a member of the HSE Regional Forum, had asked the forum how many HSE West employees had recorded stress-related leave in the last three years. He was told at that point there was not a comprehensive database that recorded stress-related sick leave.
“However, this is an issue which occurs and receives attention as part of the process of employment absence management,” Francis Rogers, assistant national director of human resources, said in a written response.
Cllr. Crawford said he found it surprising that those figures were not available, saying, “If you’re going to deal with a problem you should have some way of knowing the extent of the problem.”
The HSE yesterday confirmed that the figure of 126 referred to Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim. Cllr. Crawford received the figures for the first quarter of the year from the HSE earlier this month.
“I suppose, not having a base figure to work with, I am surprised because it’s only three months, and if it is reflective of the stressful years, the difficult years of these last few years, this could well be indicating a fairly significant problem within the HSE West,” Cllr. Crawford said.
Cllr. Crawford said he had put the question to the heath forum after attending forum meetings and hearing questions raised and listening to reports that indicated “so much is being expected of so few”.
“I think it is important the HSE recognises the effects that’s having on staff in order to have the staff benefit from whatever remedial measures are necessary to restore them to health,” Cllr. Crawford said.
He pointed out that the figures released only represent three months, “when you take it in relation to the number of years that the HSE has been under pressure”.
The councillor said it was also important for the HSE to have the correct structures in place to support people, “but also that they recognise as far as possible the cause, and take steps to eliminate the cause as well as dealing with the effects”.