'Incentives needed to attract nurses back'
The nurses union, the INMO, will be pressing for a gradual restoration of pay cuts, the reintroduction of a 37-hour working week and a major increase in nurse staffing, at its annual delegate meeting, which begins today.
INMO General Secretary Liam Doran, speaking at the outset of the conference in Trim, Co.Meath, said nurses had suffered cumulative pay cuts of 16% and 5,000 nursing posts had been removed during the recent years of health cutbacks.
He said patients had had their care compromised by the shortage of nursing staff.
Mr Doran said while a restoration of all the pay cuts would not be sought in one fell swoop when discussions begin with the Government next week, there needed to be a 'significant first step' on pay, and the restoration of a 37-hour week would also be sought.
Speaking about the need to attract nurses back into the Irish health service, he pointed out that recruitment agencies and health trusts in the UK were offering E3,000 in sign-on bonuses, plus relocation, continuing education costs and other benefits to Irish nurses.
Mr Doran said the Irish health service must now compete with that to attract nurses who have emigrated back into the system.
He said discussions were taking place with the HSE about organising recruitment campaigns in the UK to attract nurses back, but this would only work if incentives were introduced to bring them back.
At present, recently-graduated Irish nurses are paid 85% of normal nurses' salary. Mr Doran said official figures showed that 1,400 nurses had been leaving Ireland each year to find work abroad, including experienced nurses and recent graduates.
He said while the extra funding granted to the health service this year was welcome, as was the E74 million provided to tackle ED and hospital overcrowding, this had to be seen in the context of a massive E3.6 billion In health cuts since 2008.
Mr Doran said much more needed to be provided to tackle hospital overcrowding.
The main issues currently raised by nurses were workload, staffing levels and the ability to provide safe care in this environment, he said.
INMO Vice President Geraldine Talty said it was difficult to articulate adequately how intolerable nurses' working conditions were.
She said nurses were going home from work in the evening knowing that they may not have given all of the care they were qualified to provide, through no fault of their own. Nurses had too many patients to look after properly and safely, due to staffing shortages, and this was very stressful.
"If I make a mistake, through no fault of my own, and a patient has suffered some adverse outcome, then I am going to be very concerned about that. It is going to keep me awake over the next couple of years. I might end up getting struck off the register, which means I cannot practise my job any more - and it wasn't my fault, my employer did not provide the working conditions that were supposed to be provided."
[Posted: Wed 06/05/2015]