Tuesday, 17 October 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
266. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures he is currently putting in place to fill paramedic posts in the various health board areas; the estimated number of vacancies which currently exist in speech therapy, dentistry, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, general practice, psychology, public health nursing, orthodontics and ophthalmology; his views with regard to the number of vacancies which currently exist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21964/00]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): I have commissioned a work force planning survey, to be carried out by Dr. Peter Bacon, to report on the prospective supply and demand for physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists between now and 2015. This report will be presented by end of 2000 and will address the number of additional training places required for these professions. Through the Higher Education Authority, the possibility of increasing the number of training colleges, as well as training places will be addressed as a result of the findings of this survey. It is also intended to undertake a similar exercise for chiropody and dietetics.
My Department is also engaged in strategic planning through the Study of the Nursing and Midwifery Resource. The primary objective of the study is to forecast, as far as is possible, future nursing and midwifery work force needs. I have recently received the steering group's interim report. This will be published shortly.
On 7 July last, I announced that from the 2000-01 academic year, all students studying for the post-registration higher diploma in public health nursing would be paid a salary while training and would have their fees refunded. This is in  return for a commitment on their part to work for at least two years following qualification as public health nurses with the sponsoring health board. This initiative is currently being implemented. The Deputy may also be interested to know that my Department is committed to the issue of a revised strategy statement on the role of the public health nurse. Arrangements for research support to facilitate this are currently being finalised.
Work force planning for other professions will be addressed through the health services skills group to be established under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, PPF. This group, comprised of the social partners, Departments and educational institutions will identify the needs of the health service and how best to address these needs.
In relation to the number of vacancies, the identification of staffing requirements and the deployment of staff within the overall financial and employment levels set by my Department is a matter for the management of each health agency. Current personnel policy for the health service provides that health agencies may fill non-consultant replacement posts without recourse to the Department. For this reason the information sought by the Deputy in relation to vacancies is not available.
It should also be noted that recruitment of personnel is carried out on an ongoing basis in most agencies, and the level of vacancies fluctuates accordingly. At any given time, significant numbers of personnel would be in the process of being appointed by employers or moving from one employment to another.
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