DONEGAL nursing degree graduates may be forced to travel hundreds of miles in search of work in the coming weeks, it has emerged.
Last week, 11 students at Letterkenny Institute of Technology were shocked to learn that there are currently no jobs within the Donegal Mental Health Service – despite being promised permanent posts.
The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) claim that the decision not to offer the LYIT graduates – who have just completed their internships with the HSE – permanent posts is in breach of a national agreement brokered with the Health Service Executive last month.
A package of 12 proposals was agreed at the Workplace Relations Commission in mid-August which saw the Psychiatric Nurses Association call off all industrial action related to the Dispute on Recruitment and Retention of Psychiatric Nurses.
One of the proposals agreed was that all temporary nurses and 2016 graduates would be offered permanent posts.
However, a spokesperson for the HSE said the agreement that they came to with the PNA last month did not specify that the permanent posts would be in the students’ local area.
“The HSE are working at present to resolve the employment of the Letterkenny Institute of Technology graduate psychiatric nurses at both a national, local and CHO area 1 wide context.
“The agreement that the HSE came to with the PNA stated that ‘All 2016 graduate psychiatric nurses would be offered a permanent position upon graduation but it did not specify that it would be in their local area’.
“All staff nurse positions in Donegal are either covered by temporary contracts or have been sent to the National Recruitment Services and pre-employment screening is currently being undertaken,” the statement read.
“In Donegal there are no current Mental Health Service staff nurse vacancies in the immediate term and there are no permanent vacancies at the level of graduate psychiatric nurse. There is also very little use of agency staff within the Donegal mental health services.
“A national implementation group consisting of members from HSE Management, PNA and SIPTU has been set up to ensure the national agreement reached at the work place relations commission is implemented and any issues arising are resolved promptly.
“It is envisaged that all future issues will be raised and dealt with at this forum in future,” the statement read.
Mr Rory Kavanagh, Industrial relations Officer with the PNA said he was disappointed that the HSE were reneging on a deal which ad been brokered less than a month earlier.
“There is a chronic shortage of nurses across Ireland. The service has been decimated as nurses who have left are not being replaced and now nurses who have just qualified in Donegal have been told that they are not being offered contracts,” Mr Kavanagh said.
One of the graduates, who asked not to be named, said that they still find themselves ‘in limbo’.
“We were told last month that we were getting jobs only to be hit with this devastating news. You’ve (Donegal News) got a statement but we’re still trying to get answers from the HSE,” the graduate said.
The figures, released to Councillor Ciaran Brogan this week, show an increase of 13.3% on the previous year.