THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has been accused of engaging in a “cynical and opportunistic” tactic of threatening to reduce community psychiatric services in Clare if local psychiatric nurses withdraw from completing large amounts of overtime on a daily basis.
Psychiatric Nurses’ Association (PNA) general secretary, Des Kavanagh, made the claim this week in light of the lack of an official HSE response to the provision of a new cost-cutting plan, which would involve hiring more psychiatric nurses in Clare and a better service for less money.
Mr Kavanagh stated that a copy of a new agreement reached between the HSE and unions in Dundrum and West Dublin, which will result in an annual saving of an estimated €80,000, was presented to local HSE management at a meeting between both parties in Clare about a month ago.
He said this plan, which involves the recruitment of more student psychiatric nurses and a reduction in the amount of expenditure on expensive overtime and agency staff, would work in Clare.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Mr Kavanagh said he has not received any reply from the HSE to the union’s proposal.
He stated that the Dublin blueprint was initially turned down by the Department of Finance because it was deemed to contravene the national recruitment ban. However, it was accepted on appeal when it became apparent that up to €80,000 could be saved on an annual basis.
“There is an onus on the HSE to do something that will save money and provide a better service in Clare. We are training students, many of whom had placements in Clare and directing them to Shannon Airport.
“Student nurses can be employed at around €30,000 compared to spending up to €73,000 hiring an agency nurse or paying overtime to existing staff. It doesn’t make sense,” he noted.
“The current choice facing Clare psychiatric nurses is unfair and is of huge concern to members. Clare members have been told by the HSE that if they decline to do substantial amounts of overtime, services in the community will be cut. This is an opportunistic and cynical tactic.
“I was told at a meeting that the HSE couldn’t use agency staff in Clare and yet a day later, the Cork service offered to use agency staff to deal with the staffing shortage. This type of mixed messages doesn’t help. There shouldn’t be one rule for the Clare Mental Health Service and another rule for the Cork Mental Health Service,” he said.
PNA representative Denis Meehan said up to 13 student nurses would be leaving the Clare service in about two weeks but wouldn’t be replaced.
He said Clare psychiatric nurses didn’t want to see any reduction of community psychiatric services but claimed HSE management at national level didn’t mind what had to be done to save money and break even for the budget in the Mid-West.
The HSE confirmed that it has currently developed a proposal to deal with the reduction in nursing staffing that has occurred over the last 12 months in Clare Mental Health Services.
The proposal is similar to other proposals developed in other mental health services and the authority is hopeful of a positive outcome.