Doctors from overseas must have valid qualifications – Varadkar

Simon Harris to seek report from HSE over doctor who appeared to lack basic medical competency

The junior doctor, who was working in a hospital maternity unit, said he was never taught how to examine a pregnant woman, the court noted. Photograph: Istock

The junior doctor, who was working in a hospital maternity unit, said he was never taught how to examine a pregnant woman, the court noted. Photograph: Istock

 

It is “absolutely essential” that foreign doctors working in Ireland have qualifications that are valid, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The High Court on Wednesday granted a suspension order sought by the Medical Council to prevent a junior doctor from practising in Irish hospitals.

Senior colleagues had raised concern over the junior doctor, who they said appeared to lack basic medical competency.

The doctor graduated from medical school in an east European country in 2015 and had never worked in any hospital in a paid capacity.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to seek a report on the case from the Health Service Executive (HSE).

In his judgement, president of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly raised concerns that “defective” recruitment procedures was leading to “wholly unsuitable” doctors working in Irish hospitals, which represented a danger to patients.

‘Very concerned’

The junior doctor, who was working in a hospital maternity unit, said he was never taught how to examine a pregnant woman, the court noted.

Addressing the matter on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said he was “very concerned” about the health service recruiting potentially incompetent medics from abroad.

Mr Varadkar said it did not matter if workers from overseas coming to Ireland were doctors, teachers, social workers, or drivers.

“It is essential that their qualifications are actually valid and all employers have a responsibility to put the safety of patients and consumers first,” he said. Mr Varadkar was speaking in Helsinki, at the European People’s Party congress.

Mr Harris said he was treating the concerns raised by Mr Justice Kelly very seriously. During an appearance on RTÉ’s Six One, he said he had written to the HSE requesting an urgent response to the matters raised by the judge.

The Minister said this case proved that the State’s regulatory system worked and that regarding the almost 23,000 doctors registered in the State last year, there were about 350 complaints and just three doctors struck off.

Revised

A spokeswoman for Mr Harris said a HSE review into the recruitment process was under way “with a view to introducing a revised model in 2019”.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said the High Court judgement was “very alarming” and the case pointed to “serious deficiencies in the hiring process for doctors”.

Mr Harris needed to investigate the issue “as a matter of priority” and come before the Dáil to answer questions on “these serious, and potentially life-threatening issues”, Mr Donnelly said.

The Medical Council said it would not be commenting on the individual case. The junior doctor will face a fitness to practise inquiry on foot of the complaints.

In a statement the HSE said its recruitment process was based on principles of merit, conducted in an open and accountable manner, and applied with consistency. “Due the size and scale of the HSE its recruitment is conducted through a number of channels ... Recruitment of junior doctors is conducted through the hospitals.”

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