The National Maternity Hospital (NMH) returned a sickness absence rate of 3.6% for 2015. This compares to 4.1% for 2014. The 2015 figure was the lowest sickness absence rate ever recorded at the NMH or at least since data first started to be collected over 10 years ago. It is also the first time the hospital recorded an average sub 4% figure across a year. To put this 0.5% year-on-year improvement into more meaningful terms – the hospital gained more than 400 working days in 2015 versus 2014.
This improvement in attendance levels can be attributed to a number of factors:
• More focused attention to managing sick leave at departmental level
• Improving staffing resources where possible. This has had the positive effect of alleviating the stress and strain on staff and in turn improved their working environment.
• In March 2014 the HSE introduced a new less generous sick pay scheme. The impact of the new scheme started to filter through last year as some members of staff exhausted their entitlement to sick pay.
• The NMH signed up to the health service “Healthy Ireland” initiative. An awareness campaign that started in 2014 and included amongst other things a quarterly newsletter, a cycle challenge and diabetes screening all aimed at improving staff health.
• In addition, a number of other specific events were organised during 2015 aimed at staff health and wellbeing. These included talks on sleep hygiene, mindfulness and not to mention a moral boosting visit by well known author and playwright Roddy Doyle. Even Santa Claus found time to visit the children of staff before Christmas.
In calculating sickness absence rates all sick leave regardless of duration or type (paid or unpaid) is included. However the HSE, in gathering data from hospitals across the country, requests long term unpaid sick leave to be excluded from the figures. When this sick leave is extracted out the revised NMH sickness absence rate for 2015 falls from 3.6% to 3.0%. To benchmark the NMH against other hospitals/regions/HSE one needs to compare like with like. The figures collated by the HSE (i.e. figures that exclude long term unpaid sick leave) are the only figures available by which the NMH can benchmark itself. In doing so one can see that the NMH performed very well when rated against its comparators.
At 3.0% the NMH had a lower sick leave rate than its comparator hospitals. It had one of the lowest sick absence rates amongst all of the voluntary hospitals in the country. It outperformed the average rate for the Ireland East Hospital Group (IEHG) (3.5%) of which it is a member. And finally the NMH lost one-third less working days in 2015 that the HSE (3.0% versus 4.5%).