A campaign to recruit and retain much-needed nurses across the health service will get under way as the nurses union has lifted the threat of industrial action in the short term.
Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) voted by 82pc in favour of a deal worked out in the Workplace Relations Commission.
The union had served notice of a work-to-rule in protest at severe staff shortages.
The union warned, however, that this deal is just a "first step" and signalled a pay battle lies ahead as part of the wider talks on a new agreement for the wider public service.
The measures to be triggered on foot of this deal include:
- increasing the nursing/midwifery workforce by over 1,200, to over 37,000, before the end of this year;
- a funded workforce plan to be subject to quarterly reviews under ministerial order;
- the offering of permanent posts to all nurses/midwives, currently on panels, and all nurse/midwife graduates from 2016/2017;
- a €3,000 relocation package to woo Irish nurses abroad back home;
- the restoration of allowances, removed from new entrants, as part of the forthcoming public service pay talks;
- restoration of the time plus one-sixth premium payment, for nurses working in services for older people and centres for people with a disability after following determination by an independent chair.
INMO president Martina Harkin-Kelly said:"Our members, in accepting these proposals, are stating quite clearly, that they represent just the first step in a three-year programme, which must see nurse/midwife employment levels increase to over 40,000 from its current level of 35,600."
Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive (HSE) yesterday announced a new beefed-up management layer.
John Connaghan, an NHS executive in Scotland who has been involved in trying to solve that country's waiting list problem, has been appointed to the newly created role of chief operations officer of the HSE.
The HSE also said it would soon appoint a chief strategy and planning officer.
Both executives will also act as deputy directors general of the HSE.
The HSE said Mr Connaghan's job would involve working to reduce waiting times for patients on hospital lists across the country.
Lists are continuing to soar this year.