The housing crisis is forcing young nurses to move to countries with cheaper housing, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO) has claimed.
Secretary-General Phil Ní Sheaghdha said attractive packages being offered by the UK’s NHS – which include free or discounted accommodation – are attracting new entrants to the UK.
She said the exodus of nurses is exacerbating problems that already exist in the overstretched health care system.
This comes amid warnings that emergency rooms will become “hell on earth” from overcrowding this winter, as experts fear hospitals will not be able to cope with both COVID and winter flu.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said Monday that retaining graduates is key to filling wards and keeping beds open.
She told Newstalk: “We know the UK has a serious shortage of nurses and they are making very attractive packages available – accommodation and extra bonuses when working in and around major cities.
“We believe housing costs are now so high that it will be impossible for people starting on a low salary to find housing in and near hospitals where they are urgently needed.
“And of course that also affects nursing students as well as graduates and qualified staff given the housing shortage.” Many NHS trusts are offering staff accommodation at a reduced cost, with some offering beds for new recruits free of charge.
For example, Oxford University Hospitals offer on-site staff accommodation at around 20% below market rents, including 950 single accommodation units.
It was announced in recent days that the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is set to make two-bedroom pod apartments available to newly hired staff as a short-term option.
The pods will be available to health workers relocating to the area for their work and will be paid by the Trust for up to three months while they seek long-term housing.
The HSE previously said it offers strategies to attract and retain healthcare workers nationally and internationally, such as:
The latest rental report from daft.ie showed that as of August 1st there were just 716 apartments available for rent across Ireland. The average rental price across the country at the time was €1,618 per month.
A spokeswoman for INMO told the Mail that according to a soon-to-be-released survey of student nurses and midwives completing their internship year, many are looking to leave Ireland for attractive relocation packages.
The standard starting salary for nurses in Ireland is around €31,109 compared to €30,845 in the UK NHS. A senior nurse in Ireland would expect to pay €50,211 while a similar position in the UK would cost up to €46,260.
INMO also expressed concern about working conditions due to overcrowding in hospitals, which it says contributes to attacks on nurses.
The HSE’s draft winter plan models a range of potential scenarios for flu and COVID.
It said there could be 4,350 hospital admissions with 225 patients in intensive care in a high flu season over the six months of the winter season.
A worst-case scenario for COVID would see 17,000 hospitalizations with 700 patients in intensive care, the report also said.