Absenteeism ‘an issue’ says UL Hospitals CEO of latest figures

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

Professor Niall O'Higgins pictured at the UL Hospitals board first public meeting in University Hospital Limerick. The meeting heard that there has been 'a sizeable improvement in financial performance'. Picture: Brian Arthur/ Press 22.
THE rate of absenteeism across UL Hospitals is almost twice the national target according to latest figures.

THE rate of absenteeism across UL Hospitals is almost twice the national target according to latest figures.

At the first public meeting of the new UL Hospitals Board, the CEO of UL Hospitals, Ann Doherty, admitted that there is “an issue in relation to absenteeism”.

“The national target is 3.5% and our figure for November was 6.6% for the group,” she said.

The meeting heard that these are the most up-to-date figures available in relation to absenteeism at UL Hospitals which comprises of University Hospital Limerick, University Maternity Hospital, Limerick, St John’s Hospital Limerick, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, and Nenagh and Ennis hospitals.

Ms Doherty said it is an issue which is historical in the region but “it is something that we are very conscious of.”

The meeting heard that absenteeism was relatively low amongst medical staff but there was absenteeism in nursing and other grades.

Speaking following the meeting, Josephine Hynes, director of the HR department of UL Hospitals said that no procedures are cancelled as a result of absenteeism.

“If we needed to provide extra cover then we would have to get extra cover but no procedures would be cancelled as a result of somebody being out on sick leave,” said Ms Hynes.

In relation to the November figures, Ms Hynes said there can be a spike at certain times of the year, particularly in the winter. “If we had a virus outbreak in the hospital, you are increasing your risks in terms of people acquiring those types of infectious illnesses. I know they are in the community as well but they do pose a bigger risk in a hospital where people are working very close with patients who would have such viruses or illnesses.”

“We would also have people diagnosed with serious illnesses. We do have a very clear understanding of it and we definitely have a very clear plan for dealing with absenteeism”.

Absenteeism through stress, she said, is an issue “as it is for every workplace”. “We are not unique. We do have an occupational health and an employee support service so people would access those very quickly.”

Ms Doherty meanwhile, told the meeting that the group had a financial overrun of €10.119m or 4.1% of its budget allocation. The financial challenge at the start of 2013 was €21.7m or 9.1%.

The meeting heard that the sizeable improvement in financial performance is attributable to a number of factors such as additional budget allocation, generation of additional income and the formation of sub committees to “monitor, approve and provide visibility and accountability at every organisational level over all areas of spend”. Ms Doherty said that this year, UL Hospitals plan to complete the development of ICU and HDU capacity to 10 and eight beds respectively, to maximise the use of bed capacity across all hospital sites in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary, to recruit additional neonatal and obstetric consultants and to strengthen the relationship with the University of Limerick through the recruitment of additional academic staff.