Shortage of nurses due to recruitment freeze

HOSPITALS face serious nursing shortages in the coming months as a freeze on nurse recruitment will prohibit hospitals from renewing contracts with foreign nurses or hiring new nursing graduates.

The public service embargo put in place by the Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, after the last election is starting to affect nursing staff, with 2,000 Filipino nurses expected to gradually leave their posts over the next three years.

Hospitals will also have to curb employment of Irish nursing graduates coming out of college this year as a result of the move.

Student nurses are given employment in the hospitals they trained in, but the embargo on staffing will mean hospitals cannot recruit students in this manner.

According to the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO), the shortfall that will result from the loss of both Filipino nurses and new graduates is likely to create a new crisis in the public health service.

“There will be a crisis and everybody knows it, said the deputy general secretary of the Irish Nurses Organisation, Dave Hughes.

“The problem is nobody can do anything about it because of this embargo,” he added.

Mr Hughes was critical of the Government for the way in which foreign nurses have been sought out and employed at times of crisis, only to be let go again a short time later.

Most Filipino nurses, who account for a large section of the foreign nursing staff in the country, came to Ireland in the late 1990s and in 2000.

The nurses were given two-year contracts on arrival, but now their contracts will not be renewed.

“As a state, we never really got our act together.

“We went and looked for these foreign nurses when we were desperate, but then we did things like giving them just two-year contracts and now we’re telling them to go again. That kind of thing gives a country a bad reputation when it comes to recruitment,” he said.

Mr Hughes added that when, as the Government is promising, closed wards and beds are reopened, the nursing shortages will mean there won’t be enough staff to run the units.

The Filipino honorary consul in Ireland, John Ferris, said that his office was encouraging nurses to leave the country and is advising any Filipinos who are considering coming to Ireland to do so as a last resort.

“There is no future for Filipino nurses here.” he told a Sunday newspaper.

We are trying to get the Filipinos to see Ireland as a poverty trap, just a training ground to getting experience to get a job in England or Australia.”

Mr Ferris said another reason why Filipinos were leaving was because their spouses are unable to get work permits.

The loss of 2,000 Filipino nurses by 2005 would be a substantial blow to the health service, particularly as no new nursing students will graduate that year due to a change in the training system.

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