The level of demand for healthcare workers across the sector is one of the biggest challenges facing Ireland’s health system at the moment, according to recruitment firms in the sector.
With countries across the globe still coming to terms with the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences, the demand for qualified healthcare professionals has increased exponentially.
Speaking about the situation in healthcare recruitment, Colette McInerney, Head of Healthcare with recruitment agency FRS Recruitment said: “For the last two years the entire healthcare sector has been dominated by the pandemic.
“The effect has not just been felt in those areas and disciplines on the front line, but across the entire sector and beyond. As we emerge from the pandemic things certainly don’t seem to be easing up on the healthcare resourcing front.
“If anything,” she added, “many of the issues have just gotten more difficult due to delays in dealing with day to day activities that have all culminated into current huge waiting lists in a system that is already stretched to capacity. This can be seen right across the spectrum and throughout the sector.” Ms McInerney explained the shortages in qualified professionals all over Ireland is being felt in hospitals, primary care and the private sector, and it is a demand that will not diminish for quite some time to come.
Ireland’s demand for new doctors has been well documented in recent years. However, according to FRS, that level of demand has now reached a whole new scale.
During the course of the pandemic, the demand generally centred on Covid-related specialities, such as medicine or anaesthetics/ICU.
“Demand has now moved to cover a wider range of disciplines,” explained Ms McInerney.
“For example with elective procedures returning we are seeing a strong need for doctors with surgical and orthopaedic experience.
“There is also a considerable need in the mental health and psychiatry disciplines.
“We are also seeing further opportunities in more niche specialisations such as paediatric, neonatology, neurology, clinical pharmacology, endocrinology and clinical radiology, amongst others,” she added. “Overall demand outside of Covid related disciplines has increased by about 50%.”
The demand for nurses is following a similar trend. However, while a large portion of the demand was previously dominated by pandemic-facing roles, which made up the majority of the opportunities available, there is much more demand for clinical specialists, theatre nurses, psychiatric and renal nurses as well as the ongoing demand for general nurses, according to FRS.
“We are also seeing this demand across the country, with opportunities available in practically every region,” said Ms McInerney.
“This demand is having a significant impact on other aspects within the market,” she added.
“With employers having to compete for nursing personnel, pay and conditions have improved significantly.
“There is also an increased focus on attracting overseas nurses. To assist in bringing staff from abroad, issues such as work permits, visas, nursing registration and training are being handled more efficiently and effectively, at least in private sector roles.” FRS Recruitment has also seen increased demand for allied healthcare professionals as the health system moves away from a hospital-centric approach to allow for community care and more timely interventions.
“The key challenge now is attracting sufficient staff to meet that demand,” stated Ms McInerney. “We are seeing a strong pipeline of opportunities for psychologists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, social workers, physiotherapists and a lot more besides.” FRS Recruitment has also noted a real shortage of cardio or respiratory physiologists with suitably qualified candidates proving elusive.
“A similar issue applies to roles in psychology, radiography as well as dieticians,” added Ms McInerney.
Grainne Killilea, Director of Locum Express and PE Global Healthcare, highlighted similar issues in terms of recruitment.
“The level of demand within the healthcare sector has been undoubtedly one of the most challenging and critical concerns that Ireland faces,” she said.
“The provision of primary health care requires a certain level of resources throughout the country and this has always meant an ongoing recruitment drive within our two healthcare divisions, Locum Express and PE Global Healthcare, to meet this need.
“There has been extensive research into how this is best accomplished by both ourselves and the HSE and we have worked continuously to assist in achieving the levels of staffing required.” Ms Killilea explained that measures put in place by the government in recent months, such as changes to employment permits and visas, will make it easier for doctors to attain residency faster, thus encouraging more recruitment.
With other professions, such as healthcare assistants, social workers and physiotherapists, also deemed eligible for an employment permit, Ireland will be an increasingly popular choice for applicants from both EU and non-EU countries, according to Ms Killilea.
“I am seeing a positive impact from these changes already and the number of doctors contacting Locum Express from abroad looking to move to Ireland is increasing daily,” she said.
“Also there is more certainty amongst doctors who have already made the move to Ireland about their future here and there is less moving onwards to Canada or the UK.
“Our dedicated team of recruiters whose priority is to headhunt and engage with healthcare staff all over the world have noted that, in addition to doctors looking to move here, there has been a marked increase in skilled workers across all areas of healthcare applying to us,” she added.
“If more changes could be made in the future to look at retaining our younger Irish doctors, where the trend is to move to Australia, for example, after they have worked for a few years in Ireland, then I think that we would see less statistics on waiting lists and less demands on our ED departments.”