JUST 84 graduate nurses have applied for the so-called yellowpack jobs offered by hospitals, the first official figures reveal.
And Health Minister Dr James Reilly is vowing to stick with the nursing recruitment plan, despite it being boycotted by many nurses.
He's even planning to proceed with an expansion of the botched plan to other areas of nursing.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) had been refusing to divulge the number of applicants – but the minister has come clean on the true level of response.
In a parliamentary reply, he said 84 people had applied by February 12, far off the 1,000 for which the HSE had hoped.
The scheme offers two-year contracts to graduate nurses on salaries of around €22,000, with the chance of increasing this to €26,000 through premium payments. The last deadline for the first phase of the scheme was February 1, but the HSE has since left it open-ended. The scheme was supposed to save €10m for hospitals and other services by reducing their spending on agency staff and overtime.
But it now means that hospitals will be forced to make up the shortfall through cuts in other key services and staffing.
"This graduate employment initiative was introduced on the basis of a phased intake over several months, with potential for up to 1,000 graduates to be employed," said Dr Reilly.
"The HSE will continue to accept applications on an ongoing basis for 2012 graduates, and also those who graduated in 2010 and 2011.
"Further recruitment will continue during 2013. In particular, phase two – which will cover mental health, intellectual disability, midwifery and paediatrics – will launch in the coming days."