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Meanwhile, documentation obtained through Freedom of Information legislation shows that “major concerns” were expressed on medical agency usage at the Louth-Meath Hospital Group at a July 2014 meeting of Group representatives and senior HSE officials, including the outgoing Director of Acute Hospitals Dr Tony O’Connell. The meeting at the HSE’s Dr Steevens Hospital in Dublin also involved “discussions on how to attract consultants to agree to contract work as opposed to agency,” according to hospital group minutes.
A HSE spokesperson, speaking to MI in December, said that management was undertaking an “agency conversion process” as part of reducing agency costs.
Some 135 staff at OLOL, Louth County and Our Lady’s Hospital Navan — mainly allied health professionals and clerical staff — had been converted from agency to contract in 2014, “and they will also be converting 23 nurses and 15 HCAs [healthcare assistants]”.
The spokesperson said that since a HSE memo in October on reduction and control of medical and nursing agency expenditure in acute hospitals, OLOL “has confirmed that they are in discussions with existing agency consultants regarding taking the new contract”.
According to the spokesperson, OLOL has not taken on any new agency consultants since the memo was issued. NCHDs on agency contracts are paid “at the agreed/approved rates”.
She added that each HSE Division (Acute Hospitals, Mental Health and Social Care), together with HSE Human Resources, have put in place “a range of measures and processes to contain and control the cost of agency staffing across both HSE and HSE-funded services.
“It should be noted that these initiatives are being introduced without prejudice to ongoing work in various Service Divisions to determine appropriate skill mix and staff levels for 2015, which will continue.“