Simon Harris: Hospital managers can't recruit staff 'willy-nilly'

The Health Minister has warned hospital managers that they cannot recruit staff "willy-nilly" and must stay under budget.

Simon Harris denied that there is now a recruitment embargo in the health service but said measures have been taken to ensure individual hospital groups and community health organisations across the HSE live within their allocated budget.

It comes as the new HSE director general Paul Reid sent out a stark warning to his senior management team on spending across the health service.

In the Dáil, Mr Harris said: "It should not be seen as a radical concept that when the House passes a budget which allows for the hiring of a certain number of additional staff, hospital managers across the country and others are expected to live within those budgets.

"Where individual hospital groups or CHOs have not submitted staffing plans in line with their budgets certain measures and controls regarding recruitment have been put in place.

If a hospital or CHO puts a plan in place that is in line with its budget and the plan is approved, it can conduct recruitment but if it has not bothered to produce a plan it cannot simply make up its recruitment plans willy-nilly.

Mr Harris also confirmed that he will establish a stakeholder forum to provide reassurance to clinicians following the High Court ruling in the case of terminally-ill Limerick woman Ruth Morrissey over her CervicalCheck smear tests.

Medics had raised concerns around the ruling which asked for "absolute confidence" in passing a slide as normal.

Meanwhile Mr Harris met with Rehab last night in a bid to solve funding difficulties which the organisation has said will force them to close their services from next year.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Harris said: "I am looking at Rehab as a specific case here. I am listening to their specific needs in relation to the services that they are providing for people with disabilities across the country and I hope and expect that we can make progress on it in the coming days.

"The HSE and Rehab have been engaging intensively over the last week and I think they have both been engaging in good faith sharing lots of documentation and information about the financial situation."

Mr Harris said the broader issue of funding other voluntary organisations also needs to be looked at and he will be bringing proposals to Cabinet soon.

"I think the point about the broader consequences is an important one, myself and Finian McGrath are very aware that the whole issue of how we fund Section 39 organisations needs to be looked at."

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