Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has called the spending of €318 million on temporary agency staff by the HSE as a terrible waste of money, and another example of the continued privatisation of our health care system. The figures were released by the HSE to his Sinn Féin colleague, Louise O Reilly TD.

The Sinn Féin TD said this massive spend highlights the complete dependency of some hospitals on agency staff, with sums of between €9 million and €11 million being spent by hospitals across the State.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“The continuous spending of hundreds of millions of Euro by the HSE on temporary agency staff is outrageous, a terrible waste of taxpayers’ money, and another example of the continued privatisation of our health care system.

“2018 saw the single biggest increase in agency spending since 2014. The spending total jumped by €26m on the previous year to a staggering €318m for 2018.

“Since 2011 Fine Gael governments have spent almost €2bn on temporary agency staff to fill public staffing gaps because they have continuously failed to address the recruitment and retention crisis that is impacting on all our hospitals.

“The over-reliance on, and the use of costly and more expensive, agency staff is a direct result of the escalation of the recruitment and retention crisis under this government. This has led to frontline nurses taking the unprecedented step to go on strike recently

“Agency staff were originally intended to plug temporary and short term gaps in rosters, but these figures prove that there is now a reliance on agency staff.

“The dependency on agency staff is some hospitals is enormous. Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda spent €9m on agency staff, the Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise has spent over €10m, while University Hospital Limerick spent a whopping €11m.

“The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, cannot plead ignorance or absolve himself from blame here. Like the over spend of €450 million on the building of the National Children’s Hospital on the St. James’ site, this is his mess.

“Simon Harris is the lead Minister and responsible for the health service haemorrhaging nearly a million Euro a day on temporary agency staff. He is ideologically more comfortable filling staffing gaps with private staff than building a public health service that delivers for patients and the staff that work within our health system.”