Nurses on lower pay are filling full-time staff jobs
THE number of so-called yellow pack nurses working in the health service has now risen to 463, new figures reveal.
The qualified nurses, who are on lower salaries and have two-year contracts, are mostly filling posts that would have previously gone to full-time staff in hospitals and in community services.
It comes as the annual meeting of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) was told that another task force report is now under way on nurse staffing.
Dr Ambrose McLoughlin, secretary general of the Department of Health, told the delegates that it will examine the nursing workforce in a range of major specialties and look at skill mix.
This may be a double-edged sword for members of the union who want to increase the numbers of full-time nurses hired as it will have recommendations on areas where nurses can be replaced by lower-paid healthcare assistants.
It also falls short of the union's demand that certain minimum levels of staff-to-patient ratios be made mandatory by law.
Dr McLoughlin was delivering the speech that Health Minister James Reilly planned to give, before he had to cancel his appearance due to an infection.
He insisted that deciding on an optimal number of nurses is not easy and there is a delicate and important balance to be struck to meet economic efficiency and patient safety requirements.
"It is imperative that patient safety continues to be maintained in the context of these reductions, and achieving this requires that relevant expertise is applied to the decision making process."
He added: "I'm sure I need to remind nobody of the stark findings of recent reports, including the HIQA report into the care and treatment provided to Savita Halappanavar and the report of the Chief Medical Officer into Portlaoise hospital.
"The recommendations of both of these reports are currently being implemented, and I am confident they will ensure that patient safety is everyone's priority and reassure patients that our health services are of the highest quality in terms of care and safety."