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Records reveal that some €3.8 million was spent on chaplaincy staff in 2015 and 2016 at public acute hospitals.
More than €1.9 million was spent in 2015 and €1.9 million was spent in 2016, data released via Freedom of Information shows.
Around €1.3 million was incurred annually between 2012 and 2014 but this figure does not include costs from the South/South West Hospital Group, as information prior to 2015 was unavailable, the HSE said.
In 2016, the RCSI Hospitals Group was the largest spender on chaplaincy services, with €484,000 expended.
The Saolta University Healthcare Group was the next biggest spender on chaplaincy services in 2016, incurring €467,000. Meanwhile, more than €416,000 was spent by the South/South West Hospital Group.
The 2016 chaplaincy spend for the Ireland East Hospital Group was €251,000; €212,000 at University of Limerick Hospitals and €84,000 at the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.
Records also show that at the end of January 85.45 hospital chaplains were employed by HSE Acute Services. This is an increase from 81.47 in 2014.
Hospital chaplains have a number of responsibilities, including providing a 24-hour on-call emergency service, pastoral care and patient visits.
They also routinely facilitate contact locally between patients and representatives of other faiths, the HSE added.
“Informal supports exist locally which would not be recorded centrally under employment, such as the availability to patients of lists of contact details for various faiths, on call arrangements and voluntary or other pastoral/chaplaincy work, by various religious/spiritual groups,” a HSE spokesperson stated.
Meanwhile, the HSE noted that it is developing national guidance and standards for healthcare chaplaincy and has established a HSE Healthcare Chaplaincy Professional Advisory Council.