I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this important issue. I do not expect to use all of the time allocated to me because I am sure the news from the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, will be good and positive. The issue concerns the tardiness of the HSE in ensuring gratuities and pensions due to retirees are paid to them expeditiously.
In recent days reference was made to retired staff who had held senior positions in the HSE being rehired on short-term contracts because of their expertise or specialist skills. Many have rightly aired their annoyance and anger at this practice. One can understand staff being utilised in the circumstances for a short period. Their hiring is necessitated because the incentivised retirement scheme led to large numbers of experienced personnel retiring. Their expertise is now sorely missed.
The issue I am raising concerns the number of personnel who retired from their employment with the HSE in the Dublin mid-Leinster area as far back as February. Psychiatric nurses who, in some cases, served in an exemplary fashion for up to 40 years have not, as of today, received what they are rightfully due and expected to receive without any glitch, namely, their pensions and gratuities. They have been left high and dry. It beggars belief that these circumstances have been allowed to prevail, despite the fact that more than three months have elapsed. It certainly reflects poorly on HSE management.
Most people know my views on the HSE at this stage. The kernel of the problem is that the Department's section that deals with pension entitlements and gratuities did not have the necessary staff complement to enable it to carry out the assessments and compute each individual's entitlements. I know from some contacts that there are no additional staff allocated for this task. Surely, since the retirement scheme was flagged well in advance, HSE senior management should have been able to make a good educated guess as to the likely number of retirees. Accordingly, they should have realised a significant number of personnel were required to ensure the entitlements retirees were due could be calculated, assessed and awarded within three or four weeks.
I acknowledge that the staff involved are working to the best and limit of their abilities to deal with the great workload. The computation of gratuities and pensions is complex and requires specialists. It is unfair to have allowed the staff in question to carry such a huge load. The way this issue has been handled by HSE senior management has been extremely poor, to say the least, and less than inspiring.
I ask that this matter be addressed by the HSE deploying immediately a significant number of personnel to its pensions section in the Dublin mid-Leinster area so as to have the pensions and gratuities paid to the retired staff in question. On what does it expect them to live? Does it expect them to live on fresh air? I have been disgusted by the high-handed treatment they have received. There has been little or no communication or return of their telephone calls, and no response to myself, and I wrote letters on their behalf. This seems to be a trend with the HSE. It does not respond to mere minions like me who are elected by such people to advocate on their behalf.
Let us end this debacle, after more than three months, for these people who have given excellent public service. These people, who have given public service of the highest standard, should not have to wait any longer for their entitlements. I expect a positive reply from the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch.