Doctors abused and bullied in health service, Medical Council warns

Exodus from service due to culture and lack of cover for maternity leave

The Irish health system has never made any plans for the increased feminisation of medicine.

The Irish health system has never made any plans for the increased feminisation of medicine.


Doctors are being abused and bullied, and are shown a lack of respect, the head of the Medical Council has said.

President of the council Dr Rita Doyle told the Oireachtas Committee on Health on Wednesday that increasing numbers of doctors were leaving the medical register in Ireland but that this was not all about money.

“It is about the culture in which medicine is practised in this country,” she said.

Dr Doyle said there had also been no planning for and no allowance made for the increased feminisation of medicine.

The Medical Council told a committee hearing on workforce planning in the health sector that the number of doctors voluntarily withdrawing from the register had increased from 948 in 2016 to nearly 1,453 last year.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said the Medical Council figures suggested that for every one doctor leaving three years ago, there were three leaving now.

“This is deeply worrying,” he said.

Dr Doyle said while the pay gap between consultants appointed in recent years and more longer-serving colleagues was a factor, she believed the main issue was the culture surrounding the practice of medicine in Ireland.

Absolutely exhausted

She said doctors were abused and made to work for long hours. She said there was no limit on the hours consultants could work. Among younger doctors, up to 50 per cent were reporting cases of bullying in the workplace.

“I listen to the young doctors. The interns, in particular, worry me terribly. They do not even have a job description. Their current job description is that they do what no one else will do.”

She said these were the cream of the country’s graduates and were thrown into this system and they were absolutely exhausted.

“They talk about bullying and lack of respect [and having] no good work life balance.”

Dr Doyle also maintained that young doctors got little respect from the HR sections of the health service.

She said non-consultant doctors changed their jobs generally every six months but at least 20 per cent of these reported that they were put on emergency tax twice per year.

The Irish health system had never made any plans for the increased feminisation of medicine, Dr Doyle said.

Mothers and children

Virtually half of doctors graduating were women.

“I do not think any plans were made for the fact that women have children,” she said. “At the stage when just finishing their higher specialist training or general practice training is often the time when they do have children.”

She said no allowance was made for that or no extra staffing provided to take account of those who would take time off on maternity leave and the workload just fell on others who remained in place.

“Mothers have to pick up their children from creches. I hear senior consultants say where is that one gone, she is gone to pick up her children. Of course she is gone to pick up her children, she is a mother – what else would she do.

“There is no allowances for the feminisation of medicine. That needs to be looked at. There should be supernumerary interns and supernumerary senior house officers and registers at every level so where somebody goes on maternity leave or where their child gets sick, there is somebody to step in so the workload is not double on their co-intern or co-SHO.”

In a submission to the committee, the Medical Council said while the country trained a significant number of doctors, this needed to increase to ensure there was a sustainable medical workforce into the future.