Minister for Health Simon Harris has acknowledged that there is a problem with recruitment and retention of nurses.
But he said the Government would be guided by the forthcoming Public Service Pay Commission report on how to deal with it.
Mr Harris was addressing the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation annual conference in Cork, where delegates have warned they will ballot for industrial action if the Government does not meet its pay demands this year.
The INMO insists that staff shortages in nursing and midwifery can only be addressed by higher pay to attract and retain personnel.
It argues they should have pay parity with other health professionals, such as physiotherapists.
Mr Harris acknowledged their concerns, admitting there was a recruitment and retention issue.
However, he noted the Public Service Pay Commission is investigating the issue, and said the Department of Health would be guided by its report, to be published next month.
Asked whether his department or the Health Service Executive had costed the pay demands, Mr Harris said that would be a matter to be addressed when the PSPC reports.
Responding to the minister's speech, INMO President Martina Harkin Kelly warned that nurses had waited long enough, and without action, they would be on a collision course.