Coronavirus: Refugee and asylum seeker medics could provide ‘essential support’

Health professionals trained overseas can help during crisis, says Irish Medical Council

Refugees and asylum seekers who trained as doctors and nurses in their home countries, but who are not registered to work in Ireland, may be able to provide "essential support" during the coronavirus pandemic, the Irish Medical Council has said.

While doctors from outside the European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) who are not on the State's medical register are not entitled to practice in Ireland, their skills could still become very useful in hospitals as more people contract Covid-19, the council's spokesman Alan Gallagher said.

He said “the current priority” for the council was to re-register the many applications received from retired doctors, doctors returning to practise and doctors returning to Ireland.

Mr Gallagher said refugees and asylum seekers with medical training may be able to assist by “providing essential support” by taking up roles including as healthcare assistants.


He said for those who wish to register with the council, there are “set requirements in place and standards which must be met and verified” to gain entry to the medical register and practice in Ireland.


“Each application is assessed individually and there may be a requirement for a doctor applying to sit exams in addition to a language exam.”

In light of the ongoing crisis, professional and clinical regulators have waived their registration fees and applications are being fast-tracked to support health services during this time, according to the HSE recruitment web page.

The HSE said earlier this week it planned to take on as many doctors, nurses and healthcare staff as it could as part of a massive recruitment drive to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

“The health service can hire everybody and anybody who is suitably qualified to work in the Irish public system,” said Minister for Health Simon Harris earlier this week.

A Department of Justice spokesman said it planned to make contact with asylum seekers living in direct provision centres shortly about the opportunities available to them to help in the effort against the coronavirus.

Right to work

Asylum seekers were given the right to work in 2018 after the State opted into the EU reception conditions directive. Under the directive, aslyum seekers who have been waiting nine months for a first instance decision on their application can apply to work.

If their application is successful they receive a work permit valid for six months which is renewable under certain circumstances. Applicants awaiting a decision on an appeal are not eligible to work.

People who have been granted international protection status, also known as refugees, have full access to the labour market on the same basis as EEA nationals.

Medical professionals interested in offering their services should apply through the HSE online portal.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast