Over 800 nursing and midwifery posts have been cut from frontline health services in the first 10 months of 2013, figures have shown.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), figures released by the HSE show that 804 frontline posts were cut between January and October of this year.
This brings the total number of nursing/midwifery posts dropped since 2009 to more than 5,100, or 13% of the total nursing/midwifery workforce.
The INMO said that these posts have been cut with ‘ruthless efficiency' and this contrasts with ‘the lethargic approach taken to ending top-up allowances paid to senior managers in the same period'.
The union is calling on the Government to halt these cuts and ‘begin the process of restoring staffing levels to ensure they are adequate to meet patient needs'.
"These figures are truly shocking and demonstrate, once again, that both Government and health service management have failed completely to protect frontline services through the maintenance of frontline posts.
"The repeated statements that frontline services would be protected are also exposed as empty promises with even a cursory examination of these latest official employment figures," commented INMO general secretary, Liam Doran.
He described the loss of these posts as ‘an appalling indictment of Government policy, which is simply driven by economics and austerity budgets'.
"This flawed, insensitive approach pays no attention whatsoever to the quality and safety of care available to the sick and vulnerable in our society," Mr Doran insisted.
He described this approach to the health service is ‘damaging, corrosive and indefensible'.
"It cannot be continued by this or any other government. What is needed now is an immediate commitment to replace these lost nursing/midwifery and other frontline posts, in the face of damning evidence of the harm done to patients by poor staffing levels," Mr Doran added.