Concerns over staff morale at Waterford Regional Hospital following a spate of key personnel departures were raised in the Seanad last week.

Speaking in the upper house on Wednesday, local Fine Gael representative Paudie Coffey said: “There are concerns regarding specialist services in WRH, a group-A status hospital serving a region of more than 450,000. There is a threat to many of the specialist services and I will give examples.

“Only one vascular surgeon serves the region because, while a second post has been approved, the Health Service Executive has not advertised it. There has been a drain of consultants from the hospital. For example, it has lost one dermatologist, three orthopaedic surgeons and one cardiac surgeon in the past year or two.

“People of this status leaving because the HSE is not managing the situation and appointing full-time replacements is a blow to the hospital’s morale and its development,” he asserted.

“It is not good enough,” the Portlaw senator added, “that temporary consultants operate in a regional hospital with group-A status… Patients and the hospital are suffering and there is a lack of confidence in the situation.”

Government speaker, Senator Donie Cassidy, said that in light of the raft of legislation the House has to process in the coming weeks, he would arrange a debate on the matter with the Minister for Health following the Christmas recess.

‘ESB example of public sector streamlining’

On the wider issue of general public sector reform, Senator Coffey said it’s a subject that needs to be better debated. “I empathise with the front-line staff in many of our public agencies, many of whom are demoralised by the prevailing comments in this regard. It is not their fault as they try to deliver services on a daily basis.

“However, it is the idea of the public service, its bulk and management that requires attention… There are examples of reform that has been undertaken by agreement with unions and workers and I will cite one. The ESB is one of our largest semi-State organisations and while some people criticise it, I give it much credit.”

The Senator, who has worked for the ESB in Waterford since 1990 as an electrician and subsequently an engineering officer, said: “During the years of the Celtic tiger, it went from a workforce of more than 12,000 to 7,000 and introduced considerable efficiencies. It connected unprecedented levels of domestic and commercial users and proved that there is a way to reform efficiently through agreement. I compliment the ESB on doing so and hope that model will be used by other State agencies.”