HSE recruited a huge number of foreign medics
Over 2,000 permits issued amid exodus of Irish health staff
More than 2,000 doctors, nurses and other medical staff have been recruited from overseas in 2016 as the exodus of young Irish health professionals continues.
New figures show that so far this year 2,058 work permits have been granted to non-European Union residents.
The health sector remains the key area for recruitment, with the Health Service Executive (HSE) having to cope with an ongoing shortage of nurses and doctors, raising concerns that this could be a record year for the allocation of work permits in hospitals.
The inflow into the Irish health service comes as a significant proportion of young Irish nurses take advantage of a variety of career options in the UK, and further afield - in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Middle East, with the promise of tax-free salaries, has also emerged as a magnet in recent years.
Many Irish doctors who decide to work in other countries also do so to gain valuable experience from the range of high-tech health resources on offer.
Experts said the continuing economic recovery was another factor in driving demand, particularly for those with specific skills.
Latest data shows that the Health Service Executive is the biggest recruiter of non-EU workers in Ireland, followed by American internet giant, Google.
The health authority topped the list in the first six months of the year, securing 1,027 work permits for in-demand staff. That was almost four times the number of applications made by Google, which requested 268 permits.
Latest figures reveal that a total of 8,007 applications were granted by the end of October.
Only 17.5pc of those visas were renewals; the rest were new applications.
Overall, the number of permits issued in 2016 is set to be up by a staggering 35pc compared with previous trends.
India is the largest source of foreign workers, followed by Pakistan and the US.
Professionals from Brazil and Sudan completed the top five nationalities that were issued permits.
Meanwhile, an estimated 7,500 Irish-trained nurses have emigrated to the UK in the past five years.
Irish-qualified medics can avail of job opportunities in various countries - but their level of experience will determine the career options which are available to them.
In the UK, for example, newly qualified nurses can be assured of finding work, but the situation can be more complicated in countries such as Australia.
In a statement, the Department of Jobs said Ireland was experiencing skills shortages in certain "key areas" of the health service.
It added that it was the State's policy to prioritise workers from other EU and EEA states.
However, the department said it was necessary to hire non-EEA nationals when specific skills proved "difficult to source."