A RECRUITMENT agency has said that foreign nurses are choosing to return home rather than face a long wait to secure registration here.
More than a third of the 2,016 applications being processed by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) are with the organisation for more than a year.
The delay in registrations comes just weeks after the HSE announced a new recruitment drive on July 23 to attract overseas nurses to Irish shores.
However, a recruiter at one agency, Nurse Ireland, told the Herald that a backlog in processing applications at the NMBI is having a direct effect on nursing shortages.
Beatriz Ageno said that overseas nurses come to her office every week and that they are fed up waiting for jobs, with many returning home. She said she's so sick of the situation herself that she's quitting her own job - blaming what she claimed was "NMBI road blocks".
"I have actually put in my notice at work because I cannot progress here right now - I am trying to get ahead in my job, but I can't," Ms Ageno said.
Edward Matthews, a director at the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said what Beatriz described was an "accurate account" of the situation.
"On the one hand, we are crying out for nurses and midwives to come here - and on the other, there would appear to be some dysfunction within the NMBI, and between the NMBI and the Department of Health, resulting in serious delays."
An NMBI spokesman said the organisation was "acutely aware" of the impact the delays in the registration of overseas nurses were having on the recruitment of nursing staff. He said that most delays were caused due to errors in applications.
"The extent of the problem is that there are 2,016 applications being processed, 70pc of which cannot progress due to incomplete documentation, from applicants who have all been contacted in this regard," he said.
He conceded that 698 - or 35pc of the applications - have been in the system for more than a year. An increase in the numbers of applicants due to the "lift in the economy" and staffing and funding issues at the NMBI has "added to the challenges in processing applications," he added.
He said the NMBI is working with key stakeholders to improve the registration process while maintaining its integrity.