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Dublin ‘disadvantaged’ at recruiting nurses because of housing costs, regional health chief says

Mary O’Kelly says healthcare workers can’t afford to live in the capital.

Healthcare workers are avoiding Dublin due to exorbitant housing costs. File photo.
Healthcare workers are avoiding Dublin due to exorbitant housing costs. File photo.
Image: Shutterstock

THE COST OF housing in Dublin is driving nurses and other healthcare workers away from living and working in the capital, leading to staffing problems for the health service, an Oireachtas Committee has been told.

Regional health chief Mary O’Kelly said the Greater Dublin Area faces a “geographical” challenge because of the cost of housing in the region.

She said that, on a national basis, 25% of nurses who qualify in Ireland don’t take up a job in the country. It is then a “competitive environment” internally to recruit workers from the remaining 75% who do take up roles in the health service.

“Because we’re in the Dublin area, we’re also at a disadvantage with regard to people not being to afford rent and mortgages in the area and travelling long hours, which they can’t commit to on a long term basis,” O’Kelly said.

O’Kelly, who is interim chief officer of the Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow Community Healthcare Organisation, was appearing before an Oireachtas sub-committee regarding the Linn Dara Child and Adult Mental Health (CAHMs) unit in Cherry Orchard, Dublin.

The health chief said the problem isn’t confined to mental health services but is an issue across the Community Healthcare Organisation.

“We’re really at a disadvantage geographically, working in the greater Dublin area with house prices such as they are and rental such as it is and the lack of availability of houses,” she added.

Linn Dara was forced to reduce its number of inpatient beds from 22 to 13 last month due to challenges in hiring and retaining nursing staff at the necessary levels.

O’Kelly said today that the decision to close beds wasn’t taken lightly. She suggested one potential way to try and alleviate the issue would be to apply a “Dublin weighting” to the salaries of people who work in the capital to help meet their housing costs.

“We’re comparable to international cities in terms of expenditure and those other international cities, like London or European cities, do actually have a weighting on top of basic pay for people who live in the areas where rents and mortgages are higher,” she said.

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Kevin Brady, head of mental health services in the community healthcare organisation, told the committee that they have been running a recruitment campaign for staff nurses for “a number of years” but it has “yielded little”.

The latest Daft property report, released yesterday, found that housing prices in Dublin have risen 6.6% year-on-year. The number of homes available to buy hit an all-time-low in a recent Daft report.

On the rental side, a report released last month found that the number of rentals available in Dublin was 81% lower than early 2021. The average rent in the capital is now €2,202 a month, which is up 10.6% compared to the same period in the previous year. 

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Céimin Burke

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