Reilly seeks talks on nursing jobs
Nurse Edel O'Grady from University College Hospital Galway with fellow protesters during their protest outside the HSE headquarters, Dr Steeven's Hospital, in Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/Irish Times
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said he was looking forward to re-opening discussions with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in relation to the new nurse graduate scheme after it failed to attract a significant number of applicants.
The INMO called for a boycott of the 1,000 place scheme which would see the HSE take on recent graduate nurses on two-year contracts for 20 per cent less pay than nurses already employed in the HSE.
The boycott resulted in the HSE extending the deadline for applications from January 17th until February 1st but it emerged earlier that the INMO boycott call is still being adhered by graduate nurses with few applying for the new posts.
Asked about reports that only 40 applications had been received to date, Dr Reilly said such a figure was "inaccurate, the figure is considerably higher, more than double that" but he declined to say exactly how many applications had been received for the new jobs.
"This is not so much about saving money as about offering people the opportunity to stay here in this country to continue their training as well as to work in the health system," Dr Reilly said during a visit to Cork.
"I’ve made it clear I want real value to be added to this graduate programme for nurses over the course of the two years, that they will get upskilled in a whole course of areas such as prescribing, such as wellness assessment and also other areas.
"I’m looking forward to re-engaging with the INMO on this so we can between us make this available to our young nurses whom we spent a lot of money training at this point and to be sending them abroad to me makes no sense," he added.
Dr Reilly declined to say what exactly he was going to propose to the INMO, saying that he didn’t want to engage in "megaphone diplomacy with the union" but that he was anxious to focus on what the programme can offer young nurses to make them more employable.The HSE has acknowledged that the number of applications for its controversial new graduate scheme for nurses and midwives has been low.
Today was the deadline for receipt of submissions for positions under the programme. However, the HSE said it will continue to accept applications for the scheme – which offers payment of 80 per cent of the current rate – on a continuous rolling basis.
The HSE also said that the initiative was now open to graduates who qualified in 2010 and 2011 as well those who finished college in 2012.
The HSE said that all employment to be offered to 2013 graduates would be under the controversial new scheme. The HSE also said that nurses participating in the graduate programme would be supported to complete a certificate in advanced healthcare skills, such as health assessment and pharmacology.
Nursing unions said that their boycott of the new graduate scheme, which they have organised, was working and would continue.
The general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Liam Doran said while the HSE had originally sought to appoint 1,000 graduates under the new scheme he believed the number of applicants was around 50 or 60.
“We have to get the HSE to come back to the table and agree a programme that will attract and retain these mobile young professionals. We need them, we want them and we are losing them at the minute because this is a flawed yellow pack programme," he said.
"We have always said that we want a graduate programme. But a graduate programme has to have equal pay for equal work. For every hour these people work they have to be paid the proper rate on the scale."
Some 350 nurses took part in a rally outside the headquarters of the HSE in Dublin this morning in protest at the new graduate programme which they argued represented exploitation as they would be paid less than existing nurses for doing the same work.