THE Romanian doctor who couldn't take a pulse had never worked in a hospital or medical institution in her homeland, it has emerged.
Dr Asia Ndaga (31), who studied medicine in Romania, was recruited as a senior house officer at Letterkenny Hospital in Donegal last July -- but she had virtually no experience of caring for patients.
The case that emerged at a Medical Council hearing earlier this week highlighted the huge pressure on hospitals here to recruit junior doctors.
The Romanian Doctors' College confirmed that its register, which lists medics who worked as hospital doctors, did not contain Dr Ndaga's name.
Her medical education was largely based on book learning and university training rather than on any practical trainee work in hospitals.
The spokesman said she could not have "asked for a certificate of competence to work in an EU country because she was not a member of the Romanian Doctors' College".
Under freedom of movement legislation in the EU, Dr Ndaga is not obliged to undergo any practical test of skills as long as she provides evidence of her medical degree and a clean disciplinary record.
The Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, which organises the training, confirmed that a doctor whose training is entirely based on theory rather than hands-on experience was eligible for a training post here.
Dr Ndaga, was hired as a senior house office which carries a salary of €39,000 to €54,000. Her work must be supervised by a senior doctor as part of her contract.
Professor Mary Horgan, associate dean for basic specialist training at the Royal College of Physicians, told the Irish Independent yesterday the college acts like the central applications office for junior doctors applying for training jobs here.
However, it has no direct role in deciding whether a particular candidate should be recruited.
Dr Ndaga was interviewed by a panel that included HSE human resources executives and training consultants.
"The college is not involved in the direct recruitment of the doctor," said Prof Horgan.
The interview panel has the right to turn down the junior doctor -- but in Dr Ndaga's case they gave her a ranking.
The next step in the process is to match the doctor with a hospital.
Asked if a doctor's background was entirely theoretical, without any practical experience, could they be accepted to work in an Irish hospital, Prof Horgan replied: "Once you are registered by the Irish Medical Council, you are eligible to apply for any training programme in the country.
"Obviously it is EU legislation and that's the way it works."
There are 1,600 doctors from other EU countries registered to work here, but none has had to undergo any test of how competent they were in treating patients.