Government must provide fair deal for student nurses

Fianna Fáil Councillor, John Paul Feeley has called for a proper recruitment scheme for student nurses in light of the ‘yellow-pack’ Graduate Placement Scheme advertised by the HSE in December 2013.

‘Across the country hospitals and other health care facilities are in desperate need of nurses. Each year nurses graduate after a three or four year under-graduate course. Now they have no opportunity for employment as a result of a blind and nonsensical implementation of the Recruitment Embargo in the HSE.’

The West Cavan councillor referred to the HSE Memorandum published in December 2012, to seek one thousand 2011 and 2012 Nursing Graduates on a two year fixed term contract on an annual salary of € 22,000 per annum. It was also intended that there would be an educational element and a mentoring element to the Scheme but no details have been provided by the HSE. The nurses recruited under the Scheme would not be entitled to receive incremental increases and at the end of the two-year programme would have no entitlement to further employment to employment within the HSE. There were only eighty expressions of interest to the programme when the initial deadline expired. The HSE have now introduced a ‘rolling deadline.’

‘The Job Description of the Graduate Nurses is exactly the same as an existing nurse. They will have the same responsibility to their patient, their employer the HSE and their regulatory authority, An Bord Altranais. This is a ‘yellow-pack’ programme which is completely unfair to nurses involved who have taken the degree programme with a legitimate expectation of proper and fair employment.’

Councillor Feeley referred to the on-going use of agency staff which costs almost € 84 million per year. He outlined that the agency receives a 5.5% commission and 23% VAT on payments received by them. There is a 47% saving to be made by direct employment when these factors and the income levy payable by those recruited by the HSE on a full-time basis according to figures provided by the INMO.

‘This programme in a ‘no win’ offer to the staff involved. There is no training element and no mentoring. The limitation to graduates of certain years in age discriminatory an open to challenge. The programme is now going to be used to force those on fixed term contracts which are now coming to an end. I am informed that the twenty nurses on fixed term contracts with the HSE in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda are to be re-employed under the terms of the new Scheme. These nurses already have two years’ experience so this Scheme was not designed for them.

Highlighting the fact that seven thousand nurses have been taken out of the system since 2007 reducing the number from 42,000 to 35,000. The Government have indicated that a further 3000 staff will be taken out of the HSE this year. If the Government do not alter the blunt-instrument of the Recruitment Embargo a substantial number of these will be nurses also, according to Councillor Feeley.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Feeley expressed his surprise at the reaction to the motion from some of the Fine Gael members. He pointed out that the plan to provide an opportunity to graduates was welcome but this was anything of the sort, instead it is a ‘slave labour plan’ devoid of educational advancement. The taxpayer has invested substantially in the education of these nurses already. Now they are only receiving proper job opportunities abroad whilst hospitals across the country are in desperate need of nurses concluded Feeley.