Fianna Fáil Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher says health services across the country could grind to a halt if no resolution is found to the row between nurses unions and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland over retention fees. The regulator increased fees from €100 to €150 this year, and a campaign of opposition has been mounted by the INMO, SIPTU and the PNA.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “This is an extremely worrying situation, which has the potential to cause serious disruption to health services across the board. The HSE has already confirmed that it will be unable to employ nurses and midwives who are not fully compliant with the NMBI registration process. If nurses refuse to pay the fees, it could lead to major gaps in an already stretched system.
“Nurses and midwives are understandably aggrieved by increased fees, which are effectively being forced on them. Many nurses feel as if they have already borne the brunt of sustained cutbacks in the health service over the past three and a half years, and are angry at being expected to stomach a 50% increase in their registration fee.
“The Regulator says it has to increase the charge to facilitate changes to its Fitness to Practice mechanisms as well as upgrading systems to enhance professional development.
“We are already dealing with a situation whereby nurses are emigrating because they are being offered better terms and conditions abroad. If we reach a situation where nurses refuse to pay this retention fee, we run the risk of being unable to staff our hospitals and clinics, plunging the health service into an even deeper crisis.
“There are over 60,000 nurses working across the health services and they should not be unfairly targeted or singled out for fee increases. Fianna Fáil will be raising this with the Minister for Health, the Nursing and Midwifery Board is accountable to the Oireachtas and I am not convinced of the justification for this level of increase to date.”