The Care Inspectorate spent up to £2.4 million earlier this year laying off employees who assess the quality of care homes.
But some of the staff could be set for a comeback after the SNP Government backed an increase in inspections.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said the “shambles” was the fault of Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.
The inspectorate was formed following a merger of various regulatory bodies. Its role is to monitor the quality of services in care homes for the elderly and children, as well as focusing on social work provision.
The quango’s inspectors play a key role in visiting homes and assessing quality of service.
MSPs heard this month that the Care Commission, which was wound up to make way for the Care Inspectorate, trimmed its costs through a severance scheme.
Some 54 staff, 40 of them inspectors, were paid off as part of a process that generated £2.4m in staff savings.
The number of inspectors has now fallen from around 320 last year to just over 260. There are also another 21 senior staff.
But one of the quango’s directors, Gordon Weir, told the Parliament’s health committee that more staff were now needed.
He said: “The Care Inspectorate is now talking about spending from next year an additional £400,000 on staff that will be funded through other efficiencies that it has made and is planning to make.”
Asked if this could mean re-employing staff who had left, interim chief executive Jacquie Roberts said: “That depends.”
She said that “increasing the inspecting resources” could be achieved by recruiting staff, or by using “associate and specialist advisers”.
It is understood the equivalent of eight full-time staff is required.
The cost pressure comes from Sturgeon’s decision to change the minimum number of inspections.
Rather than having one inspection every two years, the health secretary told Parliament last month there would be one unannounced visit every 12 months.
The Scottish Government move followed a series of well-publicised scandals involving care standards.
Elsie Inglis Nursing Home in Edinburgh closed earlier this year after the care watchdog said it had “very serious concerns about the quality of care” offered.
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said: “This shambles is all the fault of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP Government who simply refused to listen to warnings that this would happen.
“The collapse of Southern Cross and the scandal at the Elsie Inglis home in Edinburgh only served to force the SNP to think again about how often inspections should be carried out.
“Then, having spent £2.4m of taxpayers’ money on redundancies, most of which went to highly qualified inspectors, we now find they are having to spend another £400,000 recruiting more inspectors.”
Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon said: “The £2.4m spent on redundancy is farcical now that many experienced staff will have to be re-employed at the same salary as before and with several thousand pounds in the bank due to the lack of joined-up thinking by the Scottish Government.”
A Care Inspectorate spokesman said: “Following agreement by ministers, it was decided to reduce the frequency and intensity of inspections. Therefore 54 staff left the Care Commission, the body previously responsible for this work, as part of a voluntary severance scheme. Alongside this, it was intended that the budget would be reduced by around 25% over coming years.
“Since then, the position has changed. The Cabinet Secretary for Health has announced there will be a minimum of one unannounced inspection each year for older people’s care homes. Now, partly as a result of this increase in the planned number of inspections, the Scottish Government had decided to hold our budget broadly steady over the next three years.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are planning to increase the frequency of care homes inspections as a result of public concern about standards. As a result of that, the earlier planned reductions in staffing will not go ahead.
“Beyond that, it is right that the Care Inspectorate looks at its staffing levels and mix. Early indications are that some additional inspection staff will be needed through flexible recruitment.”