Midwife and mum of seven faces commute to UK
A MOTHER of seven who is among the country's first degree-winning midwives may make a gruelling weekly commute to the UK.
Margaret Sexton Fitzpatrick (43) is among a crop of almost 1,600 qualified midwives who face the dole queue if they decide to stay at home.
However, the graduates are being lured by hospitals in the UK, Canada, the US and Australia.
The newly qualified midwife from Clonakilty in Co Cork, who finished her four-year degree course last month, hoped to pursue her vocation in an Irish hospital. But she can only hope to gain limited agency work if she stays at home.
Margaret, whose children range in age from 10 to 22 years, has an upcoming interview for a job in a Surrey hospital and is considering commuting for a three-day week.
"It will be awful facing into a new culture but I cannot sit at home and see my skills die. If you are not nursing you lose your competencies and your confidence," she said.
Margaret was among a number of newly qualified nurses whose predicament was highlighted by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) yesterday, many of whom have been wooed by hospitals in the UK while still students.
"It is just soul destroying to see such highly educated young people not being given an opportunity to work in Ireland," INMO president Sheila Dickson said.
"There is now a worldwide shortage of nurses and many of our emigrants will build new lives and settle abroad and will be lost to the Irish health service forever."
Another new graduate, Ann-Marie King (22) from Drogheda, who has just finished at Dundalk Institute, is reluctantly leaving her family, friends and boyfriend behind to take up a job in St Richard's Hospital in Sussex next month.
The hospital is paying her airfare and will subsidise her accommodation while she settles in, offering a chance to work it its emergency department and further training. As a student she witnessed the pressures on staff due to a shortage of nurses and said patients were suffering as a result.
The union estimates that around 1,900 nursing jobs have been lost in the last two-and-a-half years. Up to 1,000 employees who are eligible to retire in 2011 will not be replaced under current policies.
The Health Service Executive said it was not in a position to offer employment to graduates and other registered nurses applying for positions due to the moratorium.