Overseas medics in the health system
Sir, – Mr Justice Peter Kelly’s comments recently in the High Court on our “defective” recruitment processes (“Patients ‘at risk’ from doctor recruitment”, News, November 8th) correctly highlight several issues of concern to the Irish health service.
Among these are our difficulties in persuading home-grown medical graduates to stay to work here in Ireland, and the related risks we run in plugging gaps in the system with practitioners trained elsewhere who occasionally are not up to scratch, as was found by the Medical Council inquiry in question.
However, we rarely discuss our failings in how we treat doctors from overseas once they arrive here. Many doctors who come here to work try and fail to enrol on Irish specialist training schemes – where their non-Irish medical degrees count against them – and so they do not receive the same ongoing training and research opportunities as their trainee counterparts. Frequently, they are employed to fill vacancies in our non-university hospitals outside the major cities, where the emphasis on teaching and education is by definition not as great as in tertiary teaching hospitals.
Finally, opportunities for career progression and eventual appointment to consultant posts may elude even those doctors who prove themselves, often over many years of service, to be excellent clinicians. They eventually may decide to move elsewhere.
From personal experience, many of our non-Irish doctors undertake their duties to a superb standard, often thousands of miles away from home and family. As well as protecting patients with improved safeguards to filter out candidates who are unqualified, we also need a better way of identifying, rewarding and empowering those doctors who have come to Ireland and distinguished themselves as excellent. – Yours, etc,