Just nine nurses have taken up Reilly's 'yellow pack' jobs
JUST nine nurses have so far taken up work in hospitals under the controversial "yellow pack" graduate scheme launched six months ago.
The scheme was launched in January, with Health Minister James Reilly anticipating 1,000 posts would be filled.
It offers graduate nurses a two-year contract on annual pay of €22,000 – which is 80pc of the normal starting salary – with potential to earn another €4,000 in premium pay.
The terms have since been slightly improved under the Haddington Road Agreement, with the salary rate increased to 85pc in the first year and 90pc in the second year.
But six months after its launch, there are only nine such nurses working in our hospitals, while another 60 nurses have been assigned under the scheme but have yet to take up duty. The scheme was boycotted by nursing unions, and the number of applicants fell far short of the 1,000 that the HSE had budgeted for.
However, the scheme has since been accepted by the unions and a major drive will be made to recruit from the next crop of nursing graduates, who finish their studies this autumn.
It is seen as an alternative for nurses who do not want to go abroad to work – currently the only option available to most graduates.
The graduate nursing programme was designed to generate cost savings for the HSE in the region of €10m this year. But with such lack of interest, these savings won't be realised, and the funding will have to come out of other services.
Meanwhile, full-time nurses in the health service yesterday began the first day of implementation of the Haddington Road Agreement, which was voted for by a majority.
It will see the re-introduction of the 39-hour week. But hospital management must allow nurses to opt to stay on their current lower hours "with appropriate pay adjustments".
In a letter to HSE management, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said "this is not discretionary".
The agreement also allows for the re-introduction of the senior staff nurse increment with effect from yesterday.
More talks are also due to take place at the Labour Relations Commission on Friday to work out the details of a pilot scheme to transfer some junior doctor tasks to nurses. The aim is to reduce the overtime they work and cut down on their pay bill.