‘There is a real concern here’ – private nursing homes fear quality of care could be hit if HSE poaches staff

Tuesday July 2, 2024

Private nursing homes struggling with staff shortages are asking the HSE not to poach their workers when its recruitment ban ends.

A letter written by Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, has warned the lifting of the ban by the HSE could affect the care of older people if staff opt for public-service jobs. “With the lifting of the recruitment ban, there is a real concern that nursing homes could experience an exacerbation of staffing issues,” he told HSE head of human resources Anne Marie Hoey. “As HSE positions become available, nursing home staff may be drawn to the HSE. This could lead to a depletion of skilled workers in nursing homes, directly impacting the ability of the nursing home sector to operate to maximum capacity impacting on older people requiring care and admissions from the acute hospital system.” Mr Daly added that in order to mitigate risks, it was essential to adopt a “holistic approach” that would consider the interconnected nature of Ireland’s health services.

“Potential strategies could include engaging with individual nursing homes facing particular staffing challenges to, for example, agree on deferred commencement dates for new HSE positions, thereby ensuring a smoother transition and less disruption in care provision,” he wrote.

The body also said nursing homes should be paid compensation if one of their staff from outside the country left and joined the HSE. “Recent policy change where an employee is entitled to make a new application for a permit and can apply to change employers is reduced from 12 months to nine months presents additional challenges,” Mr Daly said. “This policy is intended to provide greater flexibility and mobility for employees, which is commendable. However, it also places a significant financial and operational burden on employers who have invested heavily in recruiting and training.”

Nursing homes have expenses such as visa processing, training and integration. When an employee leaves after a short period, the original employer bears the brunt of these costs without sufficient return on this investment.

“This is particularly unfair for nursing homes to see these employees offered new positions by other employers potentially after a very short period of nine months,” Mr Daly added. “In order to address this imbalance, we propose that if HSE hires an individual from a private or voluntary nursing home within their initial employment period 12 months from their employment commencement date, [it] should be required to compensate the original employer for a portion of the recruitment costs.

“This compensation should include reimbursement for the State fee for the work permit and a fair share of the training and integration expenses incurred by the original employer.”

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has given the green light to the HSE to start hiring more than 2,200 staff. The HSE said it was finalising its plan before rollout.