The mass exodus of qualified nurses and midwives emigrating for work is soul-destroying, it was claimed today.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) revealed most of this year’s 1,600 graduates have either left or will leave Ireland in the next two months.
The union maintained those who cannot travel after their four-year degree face minimal locum work or the dole queue.
INMO President Sheila Dickson said: “It is just soul destroying to see such highly educated young people not being given an opportunity to work in Ireland.
“There is now a worldwide shortage of nurses and many of our emigrants will build new lives and settle abroad and will be lost to the Irish health service forever.
“This is even more frustrating when it is obvious that these new professionals are needed in the Irish health system.”
The INMO said the UK’s National Health Service is recruiting large numbers of graduates across England, Scotland and Wales – with some offered air fare, a month’s accommodation and a post-graduate course of their choice. Others are filling gaps in America, Canada and Australia.
Union officials describe the mass exodus as repeating the mistakes of the late 1990s, when generations of nurses were forced to emigrate. In response, 12,000 non-Irish trained nurses were later recruited from as far as India and the Philippines.
Liam Doran, INMO general secretary, said the Irish health service is facing meltdown as frontline posts are hit.
It stated 1,900 nursing/midwifery jobs have been lost in the last 2.5 years, while up to 1,000 employees who are eligible to retire in 2011 will not be replaced under current HR policies.
The union called for a two-year graduate nursing programme for all graduate nurses and midwives so they could work a 35-hour week on a low salary, replace those retiring and be guaranteed two years’ employment where they can consolidate their clinical skills.
Mr Doran said the INMO is still waiting for Health Minister Mary Harney to respond to this report.
“The numbers of newly graduating nurses/midwives leaving this country is a terrible indictment of our ability to plan for the future, learn from our mistakes of the past and to ensure that we have a supply of Irish nurses and midwives to staff our health services in the years to come,” he added.
“We must, in these very difficult times, strike an equal balance between the legitimate expectations of nurses and midwives and their patients and the overall economic situation facing the health service.
“However, the current strategy is doomed to failure as it neglects today’s patients, leaves us totally exposed with regard to planning for future needs and ignores the fact that other countries view our newly graduated nurses and midwives as priceless assets rather than a drain on resources.”