herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Private investigator employed by HSE to check sick leave

A PRIVATE investigator following an employee who was on sick leave has cost the HSE more than €1,400.

The investigator was employed to carry out "observation" as "part of an assessment of (the employee's) capability to work", according to a Freedom of Information request.

While private investigations in Ireland are unregulated, an HSE spokesperson said "it is our understanding that the company involved is of good standing".

The "need for more definitive evidence" was behind the decision to hire a private investigator at a cost to date of €1,428.76.

This is the total amount the HSE has spent on private investigations between January of last year and June of this year, according to the agency.

The health authority told the Medical Independent that the current case was "still ongoing" and it could not provide any further details.

Sick days by staff cost the HSE about €230m a year and run at about one million days in any given 12 months.

In the first two months of this year alone, one in every 20 HSE workers was on sick leave every single working day.

This is a daily average of 4,700 staff.

Absenteeism leads to hospitals and other services having to hire expensive agency staff to maintain services.

In a bid to cut this expense, a new sick leave policy was introduced last March.

Employees on sick leave may receive up to a maximum of three months on full pay followed by three months on half pay in any rolling four-year period for all grades.

target

Prior to the new ruling, staff could be paid a maximum of six months' full pay and six months' half pay subject to a maximum of 365 sick days in a four-year rolling period.

Absentee rates at the HSE are currently running above the national target of 3.5pc.

The average national figure for the first six months of this year was 4.43pc compared with 4.73pc for the whole of last year.

HSE official figures for April of this year, however, show that some categories of staff had much higher absentee rates.

Healthcare assistants, nurses' aides and dental assistants in city hospitals had rates as high as almost 11pc in the Coombe Women's Hospital and the Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, while Naas General Hospital had a rate of 10.4pc.

The National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street had a rate of 8.63pc for this group, Cappagh Orthopaedic Hospital 8.64pc, Beaumont Hospital 8.52pc and St Michael's in Dun Laoghaire 8.03pc.

The absentee rate for Crumlin Children's Hospital for this group of workers was 6.10pc.

csheehy@herald.ie

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