Internship programme will not be extended to physiotherapy

Tue, Jan 8, 2013, 00:00

The Department of Health has said that it is not now considering plans to extend the State’s internship programme – known as JobBridge – for physiotherapy graduates, as proposed last year by the Minister for Health James Reilly.

The Department of Health said yesterday that in July 2011 in response to concerns at the lack of job opportunities for physiotherapy graduates, the Minister asked the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) to develop a proposal for the introduction of an internship programme for out-of- work qualified physiotherapists, with a view to increasing their employment opportunities in the Irish public health service, and maintaining their skills.

It said the ISCP submitted a proposal in December 2011, for a Government- assisted employment scheme for unemployed physiotherapy graduates.

“Following consideration by the Department of Health, the Department of Social Protection and the Health Service Executive of the ISCP proposal, there was consensus that the existing JobBridge scheme, under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection, should be used to facilitate the introduction of internships for unemployed physiotherapists.

“The JobBridge National Internship Scheme operates extremely well and possesses the capacity to cater for the needs of physiotherapists. Indeed, a number of interns commenced physiotherapy roles under JobBridge with maximum internships of nine months.

“In July 2012 the Department of Health set up a meeting between the ISCP, Department of Social Protection and HSE to progress this issue, following which the ISCP, regrettably, advised that they were not in a position to endorse the JobBridge internship scheme.”

Dr Reilly first publicly proposed the internship programme for physiotherapists last spring and again just before Christmas raised the issue in the Dáil.

Two-year contracts

In his remarks in the Dáil in December, Dr Reilly drew parallels between his proposals for physiotherapists and the HSE’s controversial scheme to provide two-year contracts for nursing graduates at 80 per cent of the current starting salary.

Speaking in the Dáil before Christmas the Minister said: “I will specifically mention JobBridge for nurses, which is an excellent development that offers the opportunity for nurses who have trained here to stay here and continue training. It will also offer an opportunity to further the experience of these new nurses. I would like to see similar opportunities afforded to people who have studied physiotherapy.

“These people gained 550 points in the Leaving Certificate and have done four years in Trinity College, but many cannot find a job when they graduate and are unable to set up a practice on their own. If they could be given a couple of years’ experience, they would be fit to go into primary care where we need them badly.”

Speaking last May Dr Reilly said his proposal would be like an intern year but it would not be paid at the same rate as young doctors during their intern period.

“Give them the experience of the extra year and they could go work on their own,” he said.