1,400 nurses resigned from the HSE in 2017, with many suspected of pursuing careers in the private sector or outside Ireland.
Seventy percent of the 2,000 nurses who left the HSE in 2017 handed in their resignations, the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation) have revealed in a submission to the Public Service Pay Commission in November of last year.
A spokesperson for the INMO confirmed they are awaiting a recommendation from the commission to the HSE regarding an increase in pay.
“I think that this is a major issue, in terms of retaining nurses as well as recruiting them,” said Solidarity TD Mick Barry.
“Presumably, some of these resignations could’ve been for personal reasons but I think it’s probably safe to assume that the majority left to nurse elsewhere, either abroad or in the private sector.
“The common denominator between these two are the significantly higher wages on offer,” he added.
“It is crystal clear that the major problems in relation to retaining nurses and midwives will continue in the Irish Health Service unless there are significant wage increases alongside a real improvement in working conditions.” The amount of nursing and midwifery staff fell by 9.3% between December 2007 and November 2015 from 39,006 to 35,330, according to an INMO submission to the Public Service Pay Commission in February 2017.
The report also claimed that 2% of nurses and midwives are on maternity leave at any given time so it can be accepted that the actual number of working nurses was less than reported.
“I would say a major factor in terms of that figure would be cuts,” said Deputy Barry.
“The major problem now for the HSE, despite the fact they’ve lifted the embargo and are recruiting widely, is that they can’t hold on to these nurses and the 1400 who resigned illustrate this issue,” he added.
According to the submission, the basic pay for nurses in Australia, which could range between €38,000 and €54,000 far exceeded the same in Ireland (€27,000 to €42,000).
A similar pay gap could be seen in the salaries of clinical nurses working in the public sector.
A clinical nurse in Canada could expect a starting salary of €54,000 and over €40,000 in the US and Australia but just €32,000 in Ireland.
“The wages on offer in Ireland need to be more competitive with other countries and the private sector,” said Deputy Barry.
Meanwhile, the EU commission have predicted the current shortfall in healthcare staff to reach 1 million globally by 2020 with 600,000 of these in the fields of nursing and midwifery.
“This is a problem that’s not going away,” said Deputy Barry.
“If anything, it’s getting worse,” he added.