DESPITE the fact that there are thousands of nurses facing emigration, the HSE is offering to send 10 members of staff back to college at a cost of over a million euro to be trained as nurses and midwives.
As these 10 HSE employees enter college, an estimated 1,700 graduate nurses will be emigrating in search of full- time employment. The circular sent to HSE staff last week asked: "Would you like to become a registered nurse or midwife? The Health Service Executive are offering 10 places to eligible employees in the Irish Public Health Services nationally who would like to become a registered nurse or midwife under a sponsorship scheme."
The successful applicants will be entitled to retain their full pay while attending college. A spokesperson for the HSE told the Sunday Independent the scheme costs around €300,000 a year, or €1.2m over the four years.
"This scheme provides a career development pathway for health care assistants and other support staff who are involved in the delivery of care to patients and clients of the public health service," the spokesperson said. "In return for receiving sponsorship, students are required to work as nurses in the public health system for a period of five years following successful completion of the degree programme and registration with An Bord Altranais [Irish Nursing Board]. The estimated annual cost of the award of these 10 sponsorship places is circa €300,000."
Since the introduction of the public service recruitment embargo the majority of graduate nurses have had little choice but to emigrate. Around 1,900 nursing and midwifery jobs have been lost while up to 1,000 workers due to retire will not be replaced.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said they had welcomed the scheme when it was introduced in 2002, but there were problems in getting jobs for graduates.