Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher is calling on the Health Minister to reverse cuts imposed on graduate nurses salaries, as part of a wider review of consultants pay. Talks between the Irish Medical Organisation and Government representatives are continuing at the Labour Relations Commission to discuss the possibility of increasing salaries for hospital consultants working in the public health service.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “Minister Leo Varadkar needs to urgently review this graduate nurse programme as part of a wider process which is already looking at possible increases in consultant pay scales. The graduate programme, which was introduced last year, is nothing more than a blatant attack on newly qualified health professionals and lower paid workers. It serves to do nothing but take advantage of younger workers in order to make savings on agency costs.
“As a result of this ham fisted approach to nurses, thousands are now leaving the country for better pay and conditions elsewhere. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation believes that around 1,600 new nursing graduates have emigrated this year. Highly qualified graduates are choosing to take up work elsewhere at a time when this country can least afford it. The health sector is already strained as the impact of severe budget cuts take hold, and the exodus of these highly trained nurses and midwives will exacerbate an already pressurised situation. We will soon be heading down the road of nursing shortages, as these graduates follow in the footsteps of thousands of junior doctors who were forced to leave the Irish health service because of drastic pay cuts and increased working hours.
“It is unfair to expect fully qualified nurses and midwives to work alongside colleagues, who are doing exactly the same work, for significantly less pay, yet that is what the Minister is standing over. Over the past three years the starting salary for graduate nurses and midwives has been slashed from €28,539 to €22,000. This two-tier system has already severely damaged morale and has led to graduate nurses showing their dissatisfaction with the inequitable situation by leaving the country.
“Nursing is a demanding, highly skilled and pressurised career. It is unfair and unrealistic for the Minister to believe that young graduates will stay in Ireland to work alongside colleagues in a health system which is bursting at its seams for only 80% of the approved rate.
“Minister Varadkar should use the consultants’ negotiations to reverse the terms of this graduate programme. Unless urgent action is taken, the current scheme has the potential to lead to a shortage of nurses into the future”.