Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (486)

Micheál Martin


486. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health his views on whether there is a shortage of healthcare assistants in the health sector; if he has met or written to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to discuss same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44442/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE advise that they have no difficulty in recruiting this cohort of staff in the public sector, and they further state that many of their services have completed successful recruitment campaigns for Health Care Assistants (HCAs). The number of HCA staff employed in the public system, has risen by +342 WTEs this year to date, and has risen overall by +584 WTEs when compared to the same period last year. Publicly employed HCA staffing levels at end September 2019 stand at 17,433 WTEs.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovations (DBEI) have responsibility for the employment permits list for in-demand occupations (the highly skilled list) and the list for those for whom a ready source of labour is available (the ineligible list). Care workers, including Health Care Assistants (HCAs) are currently included on the ineligible list of employments.

DBEI review this ineligible list on a twice-yearly basis taking into consideration the National Skills Bulletin, and the vacancy review reports, and submissions made to them on the matter. Removal of occupations from the list involves an evidenced based review by the Expert Group on Future Skills Need. The parent Department, in this case the Department of Health, must support any submission for it to be considered during this review. Officials from my Department have assessed submissions in relation to the removal of Health Care Assistants from this list but did not find that recruitment difficulties are solely due to shortages but rather that other factors such as salary and/or working conditions were a factor. As such, the removal of care workers from the ineligible list has not been supported by the my Department up to now.