When can I leave my London job and come home, nurse asks Reilly
"MINISTER, when can I come home?"
It was a simple plea but one that could be echoed by thousands of Irish graduates.
Ollie Allen (26), from Ballyfermot in Dublin, took time off from the busy London hospital he works in to attend the Irish Nurses' and Midwives' Organisation (INMO) conference in Killarney.
Since qualifying as a general nurse from Trinity College Dublin a year and a half ago, he has worked in London. He said most of the 250 others in his class have also emigrated.
Ollie wanted to meet Health Minister James Reilly in person so he could ask him if he was going to lift the recruitment embargo that would open up opportunities for young, qualified nurses.
"I've been working in London for a year and a half at this stage and I'd like to come back and work here," he said.
"It's just very sad because there are lots of Irish nurses in my hospital alone. We were all forced to go, and (we) just want to come back."
After qualifying, Ollie worked on a three-month contract in the A&E of St James's Hospital before taking up the position in Queen's Hospital, Romford, Essex, the second-busiest A&E department in the UK.
"I'm getting good experience but I miss home," he added.
Ollie said he was given some hope by Dr Reilly's response that the embargo would be eased, although the details of when and how were spared.
"He said there is potential for some jobs to come up but he just doesn't know when it's going to happen," he said.
Over the course of the three-day conference, staff shortages and the ban on recruitment were constant themes.
The INMO estimates that 5,000 nurses have left since 2008, and 2,000 of these left between last September and February this year.