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Sick leave is crippling our hospitals

The shocking scale of sick leave across the country's health service is yet another blow to long-suffering patients. The service is already groaning under the burden of financial cutbacks and staff shortages, the brunt of which is felt most by those who are critically ill.

As major hospitals have to contend with more than 90 staff on sick leave on an average day, patients find themselves pushed further and further down waiting lists.

Nurses struggling to maintain full emergency and other cover find their non-medical colleagues with an absentee rate "in double digits".

It has become difficult enough to provide patient services with current staffing levels.

The revelation that 5,000 health staff across offices, hospitals and other services are missing on sick leave on any given day makes this task virtually impossible.

This wasteful practice must be addressed with the utmost urgency.