Close to €3 million was spent on agency staff at Letterkenny University Hospital during the first five months of 2019, figures show.
The figures, which were provided to Sinn Féin following a request from the party’s Health Spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly, reveal that the colossal sum was spent to fill a number of positions at the hospital including medical and paramedical roles, nursing staff as well as support workers.
It also represented the highest amount spent by any single hospital across the entire Saolta University Healthcare Group of hospitals.
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Deputy Pearse Doherty has reacted angrily to the figures.
“Yet again Letterkenny University Hospital tops the ranking when it comes to spending on recruiting agency staff,” he said.
“The figures show that between January and May of this year alone over €2.9m was spent by the hospital on recruiting temporary agency workers to fill vital hospital positions.
“And agency workers were used by the hospital to fill a whole range of different roles with close to €2M spent on doctors and consultants, €283,000 went towards hiring nurses, €13,000 was spent on paramedics, with the remainder or just over €650,000 having gone towards hiring support service personnel.
“In fact, one of the few categories of worker for which agency staff hadn’t been utalised in order to fill vacancies were Management roles within the hospital.
“The reason why this data is so noteworthy is because it shows just how rampant hospital spending on temporary agency staff has become and it illustrates a clear preference on the part of both the HSE and Government to hire costly temporary workers to fill staffing gaps instead of directly employing staff.
“The reliance on agency staff at the hospital has gotten out of hand, and the fact that this spend relates to just the first five months of the year and that already LUH tops the table with respect to the sums spent on temporary workers across the entire Saolta group is real cause for concern.
“Since Fine Gael came to government in 2011 the health service as a whole has spent over €2.1 billion on temporary agency staff – this is financially crippling the system with agency staff for more senior positions costing multiple times more than those directly employed by the HSE.
“Sinn Féin has repeatedly raised this matter with the Minister for Health and we’ve told him that huge sums of money could be saved each year by properly addressing the recruitment and retention crisis and instead directly employ HSE staff which are significantly less expensive than agency providers.
“This practice is not good value for money in the first instance, and it is not good for patients or other full-time staff yet the government continues to oversee a recruitment embargo and there is no doubt that this policy is only further adding to the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis across our hospitals.”