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73k people answered Ireland's call, just 54 working for HSE

1,600 given an interview and 470 'complete process'

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Gardai man a checkpoint in the Phoenix Park as restrictions on movement continue

Gardai man a checkpoint in the Phoenix Park as restrictions on movement continue

Gardai man a checkpoint in the Phoenix Park as restrictions on movement continue

Just 54 of the health staff who answered the 'Be On Call for Ireland' recruitment drive in the battle against coronavirus have taken up their posts so far, the Herald can reveal.

Concern has been raised about the "startling" low number of staff that have been put in place after a campaign that saw 73,000 people apply.

The high-profile recruitment campaign was launched on St Patrick's Day to bolster the capacity of the health service to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

But while more than 1,600 candidates have been successful at interview, the HSE has confirmed that just 54 people have been placed in jobs.

Aontu leader Peadar Toibin raised concern over the numbers who have been placed in jobs, six weeks after the recruitment drive began.

The Meath West TD said the campaign was "a wonderful example of the goodwill and community solidarity of Ireland being harnessed in this critical battle against Covid-19."

He said it's a "startling revelation" that out of 73,000 applicants, just 54 people are "actually operating as staff in the health service".

Challenges

Mr Toibin added: "Granted, not all of the 73,000 people were suitable to work in the health service but this initiative was launched over 40 days ago."

He listed challenges facing the health system, including ramping up coronavirus testing and the "heavy toll" lockdown is having on people in terms of mental health.

"Because of this, it's pivotal that we fully sweat our health service capacity," he said.

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Peadar Toibin

Peadar Toibin

Peadar Toibin

The HSE said that 'Be On Call For Ireland' is one element of a large recruitment campaign taking place across the health service that has resulted in more than 1,000 clinical and other staff being recruited.

A statement said that almost 1,000 of these have been hired by the HSE's national recruitment service, since the declaration of a national health emergency.

It said that as of Wednesday evening 1,617 candidates from the 'Be On Call for Ireland' initiative have been successful at interview.

A total of 470 have so far completed the recruitment process, including garda-vetting and reference-checking, and 54 individuals have taken up their posts.

The HSE said the initiative was aimed at creating "an additional reserve pool of 'job ready' staff to support the health service during the pandemic".

The campaign was said to be targeted at qualified healthcare workers who were not already working in the sector.

It said 31,000 applicants did not identify as having relevant health care skills and they have been advised to register with the various volunteer initiatives that have been set up. A further 13,000 were management or administration candidates.

But any such roles that arise in the HSE are being filled by redeployment from elsewhere in the public and civil services.

This allows enhanced support to the health service by staff already being paid by the exchequer.

Routes

Around 29,000 applicants registered as health workers but 10,000 were already working in healthcare. The HSE does not want to divert such staff from the work they are already doing.

The HSE said around 3,000 applicants are being appointed into the health service through other routes.

That left the possible applicant pool with 14,000 candidates.

The HSE said it is the 14,000 that it is focussing on to bring to a 'job ready' status as a reserve to be deployed "as needed".