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Wednesday 26 July 2017

HSE didn't check background of doctor who could not take a pulse

An investigation by this newspaper has revealed how loopholes in European law and a failure by authorities here to do basic background checks allowed Dr Ndaga to get the €39,000 training post in Letterkenny.

Simple background checks, which would have exposed her lack of experience, appear not to have been carried out before she got the job.

The disclosure raises serious questions about the extent to which hospitals are vetting the abilities of doctors recruited from other EU countries.

Basic checks would have shown that Dr Ndaga failed an entrance exam for a training post at a hospital in Romania after her graduation from the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest.

Records obtained by the Irish Independent reveal that she scored just 541 points in the exam -- fewer than the minimum 588 needed for a pass.

The exam is used to assess the doctor's readiness and ability to treat patients, not just their medical expertise.

Dr Ndaga, as an EU- educated medic, was entitled to apply for work here after registering with proof of her medical degree and clean disciplinary record.

But unlike doctors from outside the EU, she was not subject to any test of her ability to treat patients or speak English -- a loophole which should have led to additional basic checks by the HSE before it decided to employ her.

Dr Ndaga was among a group of medics wooed as potential candidates for a training post here after the HSE went on a recruitment drive in Eastern Europe last year.

The College of Physicians in Bucharest -- which lists all the doctors who have completed training in Romanian hospitals also confirmed Dr Ndaga was never registered with them.

John McInerney, an emergency consultant in the Mater Hospital in Dublin, said Dr Ndaga's recruitment was not an isolated case. "Although a lot (of doctors trained in the EU) have a very good medical degree, they did not pass through an internship training year in hospital, in which they would have gained experience of seeing patients."

Dr McInerney expressed concern that growing numbers of EU-trained medics who do not have permanent jobs were now filling in as highly paid locums in Irish hospitals, due to a shortage of junior doctors.

They are earning more than €1,000 a day and can travel from hospital to hospital, without existing staff knowing how competent they are.

Another consultant, who is based in a prominent hospital, reported that a trainee anaesthetist from Eastern Europe had such poor English that he could not be allowed work on call overnight.

Language

Dr Ndaga was accepted as a potential candidate for a training post by the Royal College of Physicians but she first had to pass an interview panel.

Guidelines from the college recommend candidates should be marked on six areas, including decision-making skills, ability to manage a heavy workload and general suitability.

After passing the interview, Dr Ndaga was subsequently matched by the college to Letterkenny Hospital. Within days, supervising consultants had doubts about her ability.

She was assessed by a senior consultant. When asked to take a patient's pulse, she put her fingers "on top of the patient's wrist" instead of underneath.

Dr Ndaga failed to turn up for a Medical Council inquiry earlier this month, at which she was found guilty of poor professional performance.

Health Minister James Reilly described the failure to test an EU doctor's ability to speak English as "bizarre".

He said he would expedite legislation to make the language test mandatory -- but he has given no timetable for its introduction.

It is unclear if it will be in place for the next influx of junior doctors in January.

Irish Independent

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