'Kerry is losing psych nurses'

Dónal Nolan

There are twice as many mental health nurses leaving HSE work in Kerry as are being newly recruited by the service, with overtime costs in the sector spiralling, psychiatric nurses warn.

It's estimated by nurses that 18 new staff nursing positions could have been created at the same cost of the overtime spent by the HSE in 2016.

Latest figures show that €503,000 was spent on overtime for mental health nurses in 2016, up by more than 100 per cent on the cost of overtime in just two years. Figures show that the HSE spent €248,000 on overtime in 2014.

It's a trend that's described as a 'shocking waste of resources' by the Psychiatric Nurses' Association this week, as they urgently implore the Government to start recruiting more mental health nurses instead of relying on overtime.

They say that there are twice as many nurses leaving HSE work through retirement and resignation than are being recruited within the service.

"Latest figures for the provision of overtime within the Kerry Mental Health Service for 2016 continue to see a marked increase in cost, despite the fact that there are many mental health nurses throughout Ireland, the UK and further afield who would gladly return home to Kerry if the HSE would only employ them," PNA spokesperson Cormac Williams said this week.

He described the apparent failure to appropriately boost the rate of recruitment as 'ironic' in light of the Government's much-trumpeted goal of creating more and more jobs.

"This level of expenditure on overtime must be seen as a shocking waste of scarce resources within the mental health service when there are so many nurses wanting to return back to Kerry...the HSE could have employed 18 staff nurses directly for the same cost of overtime in 2016," Mr Williams said.

Sick leave among mental health nurses has increased significantly since 2012, meanwhile, with the PNA pointing to a rise in assaults and injuries incurred in the course of work as a major factor in this.