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Survey: Majority of medical students plan to leave Ireland after internships

A Fine Gael senator says we need a national debate to figure out why young trainee doctors are so keen to emigrate.

Image: jasleen_kaur via Flickr

Updated, 20:04

A SURVEY of medical students has found that almost two-thirds of students in their final year of college plan to leave Ireland as soon as they have completed their year interning in an Irish hospital.

The survey, contained in a report commissioned by Fine Gael senator Colm Burke, found that 65.5 per cent of Medicine students who are in their final year of study plan to leave Ireland once they have completed their intern year.

51.9 per cent of students said they would reject plans which would require them to remain in the Irish healthcare system for a mandatory period after completing their obligatory intern year in the Irish public hospital system.

Furthermore, almost 70 per cent of students said they would limit any prospective mandatory Irish service period to one year – the shortest option offered in the survey.

Burke said the report illustrated the need to examine why so many students trained in Ireland were keen to leave the Irish healthcare system at the first available opportunity.

“Ireland, in the mind of a huge number of our junior doctors, does not stand up as an attractive location to work after internships have been completed,” Burke said, citing long working hours and dissatisfaction with training as some of the reasons for this.

He added:

There is considerable cost to the State associated with educating our young doctors and the brain drain of Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors [or 'junior doctors'] going overseas to work is also costing us dearly.

Many newly-qualified doctors already complain about long working hours and poor pay – saying their working rosters regularly include mandatory on-call overtime for which they are not paid.

Financial concerns

Burke said the responses in the report suggested that young doctors were reluctant to commit to another year working under similar conditions, which could lead to severe financial pressures given that many young doctors are already in significant debt as a result of the cost of their education.

“The financial strain such a year would bring and fears that a mandatory year would encourage resentment among newly qualified doctors which would lead to a negative working environment and a lack of motivation,” the senator suggested, calling for a debate on how to ensure Irish-trained doctors did not rush to leave.

By comparison, doctors who have completed their internships in Ireland are regularly offered work in established private practices in Canada where salaries can reach the equivalent of €400,000.

Some 567 newly-qualified doctors began their intern year in Irish hospitals last week.

A shortage of doctors to fill non-consultant roles last year resulted in emergency legislation allowing non-EU doctors – predominantly from India and Pakistan – to be cleared for work in Ireland.

That recruitment process was beset by controversy, however, including reports that the HSE’s publicity trip to south-east Asia cost more than €113,000.

It also emerged that at least 30 immigrant doctors failed Medical Council exams needed to become accredited to practice in Ireland – while being accommodated at the HSE’s expense.

The Dublin unit of the HSE spent over €80,000 housing immigrant doctors while they awaited clearance to work.

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Gavan Reilly

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