Medical Council 'barrier' blocking overseas doctors

 

MORE THAN 440 doctors based in India and Pakistan would be willing to come and fill vacant junior doctor posts in Irish hospitals but for obstacles put in their way by the Medical Council, a Health Service Executive (HSE) manager has claimed.

The doctors must be registered by the council before they can work here. To register they must pass a number of exams, one of which can only be taken in Ireland.

Internal Health Service Executive correspondence seen by The Irish Timesstates that the doctors are unlikely to travel 9,600km (6,000 miles) to do such an exam.

The HSE, according to the correspondence, has been trying to persuade the council to accept documentary evidence of the training and qualifications which the doctors gained in India and Pakistan, rather than “sticking to the Pres [pre-registration examination system] as the direct route to registration”.

Pres applicants, in addition to presenting documentary proof of qualifications, must undertake a 2½-hour exam based on multiple choice questions to test their medical knowledge, which can be undertaken in India and Pakistan.

They must also take a 3½-hour examination of their clinical, communication and interpretation skills, which is only held in Ireland.

A letter written by Dan McCarthy, a medical manpower manager with the HSE, to a number of colleagues on May 26th, states the council was informed late last year “that the Pres is the biggest obstacle we have to recruiting doctors from outside the EU”.

He said he had 448 personnel files for doctors from India and Pakistan in his office who had been interviewed and were “ready to take up duty with a few weeks’ notice”, but “the only barrier is Medical Council registration”.

He noted about 400 junior doctor positions would remain vacant in July when junior doctors rotate posts as part of their training. “Most of these will probably be filled by agency staff, but that is not the solution,” he added.

The council, in a statement, said it would continue to co-operate with the HSE to help resolve the difficulties the HSE is experiencing in filling junior doctor posts. But it said the council “cannot compromise the robustness of the registration process by fast-tracking or streamlining processes which could potentially affect the levels of protection afforded to the public”.

Last night, Dr Philip Crowley, director of quality and patient safety with the HSE, said the HSE was not at loggerheads with the council. He said regardless of what a colleague wrote, he respected the laws the council had to abide by to protect patients. He did not believe the Pres was an obstacle to recruitment of junior doctors from overseas and said doctors from India and Pakistan would be “supported” by the HSE to come and sit the clinical exam if necessary.

He also said it was challenging but not impossible to have this process completed by July 11th, when posts fall vacant. Other HSE sources suggested the number of junior doctor posts which will have to be filled by applicants from India and Pakistan was now closer to 200 than 400 and that up to 70 of the applicants from those countries would be exempted from taking the Pres exam.