THE Health Service Executive (HSE) is offering to bring foreign nurses to Ireland to fill specialist hospital jobs after failing to find candidates here.
Hospitals need 88 nurses with particular skills in theatre and critical care.
The foreign recruits are being wooed with full salaries, economy-class flights and one month's free accommodation.
It comes as figures show that 804 frontline nursing posts have been lost in hospitals in the first 10 months of 2013.
Overall, since 2009, some 5,133 nursing jobs have been left unfilled -- forcing hundreds of Irish-trained nurses to move abroad. A nursing shortage here over a decade ago saw almost 10,000 foreign nurses recruited.
But cuts in funding to hospitals and the moratorium on recruitment ended that drive.
The HSE says that it has invited tender submissions from suitably qualified recruitment agencies to secure specialist nurses who will work here for at least two years. It has been trying to fill these posts in Ireland for a year with no success. The salary on offer for the skills -- which are in high demand in the global market -- is believed to be one of the factors which has led to the slow response.
"Currently, the HSE is seeking 54 theatre nurses and 34 critical care posts to be filled nationally," the HSE said.
The job packages on offer include a salary of €27,000- €38,000, as per HSE scale.
The HSE sparked controversy earlier this year when it offered graduate nurses a two-year contract at the so-called 'yellow-pack' salary rate of €21,741 increasing in the second year.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) criticised the ruthless efficiency shown in cutting frontline nursing posts generally.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said this "contrasts with the lethargic approach taken to ending top-up allowances paid to senior managers in the same period".
He believes the Government "with immediate effect, must exempt nursing and midwifery posts, from any further contraction, and begin the process of restoring staffing levels to ensure they are adequate to meet patient needs".