The crisis of nurse recruitment and retention plaguing the health service shows no sign of abating with seven in 10 of the current crop of fourth-year student nurses considering emigrating following graduation.

In addition, the majority of the class of 2018 — 57% — have already been approached by overseas recruitment companies, according to a survey by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Just 18% have been offered permanent contracts by the HSE, even though the HSE wrote to students in February saying all graduate nurses and midwives would be offered permanent posts as an incentive to remain in the Irish public health service.

The survey results bolster the union’s claim that the Government needs to urgently address the pay and working conditions of the INMO’s 40,000 members — issues that are topping the agenda at the union’s annual delegate conference which is under way in Cork.

INMO student and new graduate officer Neal Donohue said the offer of a permanent contract “for an extremely low-paid job with poor working conditions is simply not attractive for nursing and midwifery interns”.

General secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said they were calling on the Government to fulfill its commitment to sit down within four weeks of the publication of the report of the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC), due next month, to discuss the implementation of all measures recommended, including pay.

She said this was the basis upon which members had signed up to the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, and failure to honour it could lead to industrial action.

Delegates are due to debate an emergency motion on pay today that calls specifically for the union to make sure the Government fulfils its commitment, and also that the result of any outcome is put to a ballot, which they have the right to reject.

And in the event that they do reject it, “we then ballot them for industrial action, right up to and including withdrawal of labour”, said Ms Ní Sheaghdha.

“It is very important now that the Government honours that commitment and ensures that any opinion that there are too many nurses, and that knock on claims will follow, are dealt with speedily, because it is the time to deal with the issue that has been plaguing the health service for in excess of 10 years, since the moratorium was first introduced in 2007.”

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said there are still 2,500 nurses less than in 2007 “working in an environment that’s much busier, much more litigious and requires all of our expert skills every day”.

She said nurses are reporting high levels of burnout and stress and they are “not going to wait for another long drawn-out process to deal with their issues”.

“The examination has to end with the PSPC [report] and the recommendation has to implemented in a very clear, concise and fast manner.

“We will have expectations that if Government is preparing for that, they will meet us with a view to implementation, and provide funding in the estimates of 2018.”

She said this is “entirely do-able” and is necessary to keep nurses in Ireland at a time when “Brexit will increase the pressure on the UK to recruit Irish nurses and we just have to react before the crisis gets absolutely out of control, which it’s getting very close to at the moment”.

The INMO conference continues for the next two days, with Health Minister Simon Harris due to attend tomorrow.


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