New €3,000 package launched in bid to lure nurses back home
An improved "bring them home" package, worth €3,000, is among the incentives to be launched in a bid to recruit Irish nurses from abroad.
The enticing package comes as a new survey shows overcrowded A&E departments are nurses' least favourite places to work.
Nurses returning home to work in Ireland will get €1,500 upfront and an extra €1,500 after 12 months.
It will kick in as soon as a ballot by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is expected to support a range of recruitment and retention measures which were recently worked out in talks to avert industrial action.
Health Minister Simon Harris hopes another proposal, to allow nurses over 55 to work part-time in a pre-retirement deal, will also help ease the shortage which is continuing to affect services.
Nurses can reduce their hours to half-time for the last five years of service but they will count as full years for pension purposes.
It comes as a survey by the world's largest job site Indeed revealed almost two-thirds of nursing jobs in A&E departments were still vacant after 60 days. Figures from hospitals across the country yesterday show 491 patients on trolleys, highlighting the conditions which are driving away nurses.
"The HSE is also going to a jobs fair for nurses in London this week," the minister said.
The survey found the specialties where nurses are most difficult to recruit are in dialysis, learning disability and endoscopy.
"Analysis also reveals that 26pc of Ireland-based searches for nursing jobs are going abroad. The UK, United States and Australia are the most popular countries in which nurses based in Ireland sought employment," it said.
Although Irish health officials are heading to the UK as part of the drive to bring more nurses home, it appears that, unlike other sectors, Brexit is not deterring nursing jobseekers there.
Indeed found little change in the level of searches by nurses in Europe for jobs in the UK.
"This runs counter to the overall trend identified by Indeed since the Brexit referendum, with European interest in working in the UK plummeting by 18pc since January," it said.
Separate figures from the HSE reveal the extent of the problems retaining nurses.
There were 162 fewer nurses working in health services here in January compared with December, with a fall of 135 in staff nurses.
Meanwhile, the first national survey of patients' experience of hospital - covering areas from the cleanliness to toilets to how long they had to wait on a trolley - is to get under way next month.
Nearly 30,000 patients who have been discharged will receive a letter from HSE chief Tony O'Brien asking them to fill out the questionnaire.
Launching the survey, Mr O'Brien quoted the late American poet Maya Angelou who commented: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
He said he hoped the survey would provide that insight.