Exit of medical graduates is no mystery

An entirely foreseeable failure of policy

Sir, – Given that the secretary general at the Department of Health Robert Watt’s solution to the difficulties in persuading Irish-trained medical graduates to remain in our health service is to radically expand medical school graduate numbers (“Health chief admits ‘failure’ to deal with exit of graduate medics from Ireland”, News, September 29th), let us be grateful his chosen career wasn’t that of a plumber, where his likely response to a leaking pipe would be to radically increase the water pressure. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.


Sir, – In 2015, the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service’s (IGEES) Medical Workfare Analysis advised: “Having and maintaining the appropriate level of medical staffing is a central public health priority. If the workforce is understaffed, patient safety is put at risk and overworked and dissatisfied clinicians may exit the health system for better working conditions elsewhere, exacerbating the problem.”

Ten years earlier in 2005, the Department of Health failed to prepare for the European working time directive for front-line health workers’ working hours and rosters. The result is that we train more nurses and doctors per capita than any other EU state and yet depend more on health workers, especially doctors, trained abroad than any other state, apart from New Zealand.

It’s a bit late for the secretary general of the Department of Health Robert Watt to now publicly admit to a “failure” to retain enough doctors and nurses.

The department’s policy over two decades has largely produced the current crisis. Seven years ago, the IGEES noted that: “Despite investing €200 million into medical training in the last decade and producing the most medical graduates per capita in the EU, 87 per cent of medicine students are either intending to emigrate or contemplating it.”

It couldn’t have been clearer. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.