We do not have a staffing shortfall in junior doctors and consultants. All our junior doctor posts are filled. There will be an issue in anaesthetics and accident and emergency posts come 1 January. There is a reduction in the applications for posts for the Dublin hospitals but we feel we will be able to resolve that problem and maintain a full complement of junior doctor staff. We do not have any vacancies for consultant staff except what may arise through retirements, and they are filled on a routine basis. In fact, we have increased the number of consultant posts over the past five to six years through service developments and expansion of existing services.
The critical point for Beaumont, like many hospitals, is a shortfall in nursing staff. Currently we have 110 vacancies in nursing out of a total complement of 900 nurses. There are a number of factors, which have been debated in various forums, in regard to what is causing that shortfall but as far as we are concerned, we have taken an initiative of recruiting in the Philippines to fill those vacancies and over the next three to four months, our nursing complement will be back up to its full complement of 900 staff. We have recruited 165 Filipino nurses. We will not require all of those nurses but we will have them on a panel and they cover all specialities within the organisation. The current effect of the staffing shortfall is that we have more than 60 beds out of the system, out of a total complement of 640. We are down on average one and a half theatres and we are trying to manage the situation by having extended hours in theatre and by using locum nursing staff wherever possible to deal with increased demand. We try to maintain the five day wards to deal with the elective work and the referral patterns the Deputy referred to but we are confident that by December/January, all of the capacity that has been closed because of staff shortages will be reopened. Notwithstanding that, the demands coming on the hospital from the North Eastern Health Board, the north west, etc. are increasing and even with a full complement of beds and theatres, the demands can far outstrip our ability to supply. However, we will be back to full complement in January.
The other areas that are marginally affected would be in the lower grades such as catering and cleaning. Cleaning, which we contract out, has been recontracted. We had to adjust the rate because of the minimum wage and competitiveness in that area. In regard to portering and catering, we constantly have to keep our eye on the ball to ensure that we deal with the high turnover in that area because opportunities exist elsewhere. We can only pay people in accordance with national guidelines but we are at full complement in those services.
In a nutshell, the nursing shortages have been the key pressure point for the hospital and have taken up a great deal of management time in ensuring that we get back up to complement. We endeavour to promote staff retention in every area possible and to make Beaumont, like any other hospital, a good place to work and to be motivated. Outside of the pay elements to the reward system, to try to motivate people in a non-pay area as best as possible. We have a forum in which we consult with all department heads on a regular basis, visit departments, etc. Obviously that is not unique to Beaumont but we do our best to try to retain the staff we have.