The level of absenteeism among Health Service Executive staff in the Mid West region is higher than in other regions.

It has been as high as 9% in some staff disciplines.

The level of staff who are absent from work in the region is currently 6.4%, as opposed to a level of 4.7% for HSE staff generally.

Outlining local aspects of the HSE National Service Plan in Limerick, Area Manager Bernard Gloster said one of the biggest demands facing the service in the Mid West region is the reduction in the level of absenteeism.

Mr Gloster said that the level of 6.4% was considerably reduced from 8%, and in some disciplines 9%, in recent years.

He said it is an area that it is challenged about, but said operational managers in the HSE are not shy about tackling absentee management.

Mr Gloster said that they nearly know by name those who are out sick regularly, but the majority of staff who are out sick are genuinely absent and do not have repeat patterns of behaviour.

He also said there were a number of young and middle aged staff who are absent on sick leave dealing with cancer and that also has to be managed.

Mr Gloster admitted absenteeism is a substantial cost, but they were determined to tackle it as it drives up the cost of agency staff.