HUNDREDS of newly qualified Irish-trained nurses and midwives will be forced to leave the country before the end of the year because of the “meltdown” in a health service which can no longer offer them employment.
A new report by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has claimed a major brain drain is taking place among Irish medics which is hampering the future prospects of the system – and its financial security.
According to the group, the vast majority of Ireland’s 1,600 recently qualified nurses will emigrate to find work within the next two months.
The INMO said this is because the best they can hope for here is “minimum locum work or the dole queue having spent four years training at a cost of €90,000 to the taxpayer”.
In contrast, graduates who move to Britain – the destination of the majority who leave – are having their airfare, first month’s accommodation and a post-graduate course of their choice paid if they accept jobs with the NHS.
According to the group, 1,900 nursing or midwifery posts in the Irish health service have been left unfilled since the start of 2008.
As many as 1,000 nurses or midwives are also eligible to retire by 2011 and will not be replaced due to existing HSE employment restrictions, while up to 20% of the current workforce is over the age of 50.
In an attempt to combat the situation, a total of 12,000 nurses who were trained abroad have been brought into the Irish health service since 2001.
However, the INMO said this situation – which was “at a considerable cost to the exchequer” – could be avoided if newly-qualified Irish-trained nurses were given the opportunity to find employment here.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said the current strategy is “doomed to failure.”
In an attempt to address the situation, the INMO has called for a two-year graduate programme to be introduced in order to ensure work is available for newly-qualified medics.
Under this system, the INMO said all nurses would be able to work a 35-hour week in line with other health service staff, with new graduates replacing retired nurses and being given a guarantee of two years’ employment.
Nurses under this mooted programme would receive 85% of the lowest staff salary for the profession in order to keep costs under control, the INMO said.
The Department of Health said it is recognised that the employment controls introduced by the Government have impacted on newly qualified nurses obtaining employment. A spokesperson said, however, this was the only way to address the budgetary imbalance and ensure we have a sustainable health service in the future.
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