THE regulatory body for nurses has been asked to come up with a plan to avert a potential crisis as it faces revolt over a hike in registration fees,
More than 1,000 nurses from three unions staged a protest outside the headquarters of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland to vent their anger at the €150 fee, with a rise of €50 due in January.
Nurses are threatening a mass boycott - but the HSE said it cannot employ unregistered nurses.
Officials from the Department of Health wrote to the nursing board expressing concern about the possible implications for the health service and patient safety "should the current situation continue".
It said if they refuse to pay their registration fee, they will be unable to practice.
A spokesman said that Department granted a once-off sum of €1.6m to the board to cover its 2013/2014 costs. "The Department has asked the board to come up with a plan which will allow nurses to be registered and which will cover the costs of the ongoing regulatory functions of the Board," they said.
A spokesman for the NMBI, which meets again today, said it kept the fee as low as possible.
However, the increase was needed in order to meet its obligations under new legislation, including holding fitness to practise hearings in public.
"The Department of Health has made clear the Board has to be a self-funding, independent body . . . with the responsibility to ensure that it has the financial capacity to undertake all its legal obligations," he said.