Tackling the medical staffing crisis


Sir, – There is an over reliance on foreign-trained doctors in Irish hospitals and yet they are denied training opportunities and are therefore transient and open to exploitation (Paul Cullen, Home News, June 29th).

A set number of doctors, newly qualified from the six Irish medical schools, will commence their first jobs as interns next Monday, July 8th.

Satisfactory completion of a 12-month clinical and academic training intern year is necessary to obtain full registration with the Irish Medical Council and other medical councils throughout the world.

There are some 200 additional Irish-trained doctors who have not been offered one of these highly sought after 12-month intern posts because of the limited number of these posts in Ireland and the ranking of international (non-EU) students below their EU-citizen peers. While some will take up intern posts elsewhere in the world by choice, the majority of graduates of the medical schools in Ireland wish to work as interns in the Irish health service.

The number of intern posts available in Ireland is substantially less than the number of applicants. This is in sharp contrast to the situation pertaining for post-internship training and consultant grade posts, where difficulty recruiting and filling vacancies has been widely publicised.

There are serious consequences of the limited availability of intern posts.

Ireland is deprived of a cohort of Irish-trained doctors who are experienced in the structures and organisation of healthcare systems in Ireland and attuned to the culture and society in Ireland.

Unfortunately, these Irish-trained doctors who must leave the country to obtain an intern position are unlikely to return to Ireland in the future. Because of the limited number of intern posts, the experience of newly qualified doctors in the Irish health service is challenging and stressful with unrelenting and arduous workloads.

These experiences contribute to many making the decision to leave Ireland and take up posts where excellent opportunities to work and train are available for well-qualified doctors.

Increasing the numbers of intern posts and making these available to all doctors trained in Irish medical schools would have a positive impact on delivery of care in Irish hospitals and healthcare settings. A greater availability of intern grade staff will improve experiences for the newly qualified medical workforce which will enhance the retention of doctors beyond internship and into postgraduate training in Ireland, thus helping to solve the medical manpower crisis.

Reliance on a transient medical workforce, unable to be appointed to training posts leading consultant posts (many of whom are not Irish-educated), would diminish. – Yours, etc, Prof PAULA O’LEARY, Dean and Head, School of Medicine, University College, Cork; Prof MICHAEL GILL, Head, School of Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin; Prof CARMEL MALONE, Head, School of Medicine, National University of Ireland, Galway; Prof DEIRDRE Mc GRATH, Head, Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick; Prof MICHAEL KEANE, Dean of Medicine and Head, School of Medicine, University College, Dublin; Prof ARNOLD HILL, Head, School of Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin on behalf of the Irish Medical Schools Council.