Cork University Hospital (CUH) spent almost €6.7m while the Mercy University Hospital spent just over €1.5m. Almost 30 agency nurses were employed every week at CUH to help plug huge gaps in staffing.
There were 55 nursing vacancies at the hospital in December and almost 20 vacant consultant posts, with the vast majority of these filled by locum consultants on HSE contracts. Meanwhile, the Mercy had five vacant nursing posts in December, all filled by agency staff.
Consultant in emergency medicine at CUH, Dr Conor Deasy, said recruitment can be a slow bureaucratic process.
“Attracting consultants to come back to Ireland from Australia, Canada and US where conditions and resources are better is challenging,” he said.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the problem has spiralled out of control in recent years.
“Some amount of agency staffing is normal, but The Echo’s figures demonstrate how the problem has ballooned out of proportion,” an INMO spokesman said.
“Uncompetitive pay has meant that many nurses and midwives look to other countries for work, meaning that agency staff are needed to plug the gaps. When safe staffing levels are implemented, Irish research shows that the workforce stabilises, agency spending can be cut by over 95%, and patient outcomes improve hugely.”
Dr Peadar Gilligan, president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), described the figures as concerning.