Tuesday 23 April 2019

Doctors fed up with conditions leaving Ireland 'in droves'

More hospitals depending on medics from abroad

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Much-needed doctors are quitting Irish hospitals for abroad because they are fed up with understaffing and lack of respect from senior medics, a damning new report has revealed.

They are leaving to join the health service in the UK and Australia to earn more money, have a better work-life balance and practise without having to do the non-medical tasks expected of them here.

The stark findings were revealed in the Medical Workforce Intelligence Report for 2016 and 2017 from the Medical Council, which regulates the profession.

It found 2,830 doctors left the register over that time. Of the 1,846 who responded to the survey, one in four who were uprooting were leaving consultant posts, once regarded as a job for life.

It comes at a time when hospitals here are struggling to fill up to 500 consultant vacancies as less of these Irish-trained doctors abroad are opting to return home. The report highlights the growing reliance on doctors from abroad to maintain services.

There were 2,714 doctors who enrolled on the medical register for the first time in 2016. Most were educated outside Ireland, were not specialists and came from countries including Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan and Romania as well as the United Kingdom.

For every two hospital consultants, there were three junior doctors.

President of the Medical Council Dr Rita Doyle said the report confirmed the challenge in recruiting and retaining Irish-trained doctors.

"This is leading to an over-reliance on overseas trained doctors, which is escalating as evidenced in this report.

"The cultural challenges within the Irish health system, which are highlighted in the report, also need to be addressed in tandem with an increase of health practitioner supply. Otherwise, retention will remain a growing issue."

The survey said many of those leaving are male doctors under 35 years of age, with worries about limited career progression one of the reasons driving them away.

The report has a number of recommendations, including looking at the most innovative measures used to tackle the same problem in other countries.

Commenting on the report, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and Irish Hospital Consultants Association said the 30pc gap in salary between newly recruited consultants and longer-serving colleagues makes Ireland a cold house for specialists.

IMO president Peadar Gilligan said it confirmed not only are Irish doctors leaving in "droves" but "we are now losing doctors who have travelled to Ireland to work here but who don't like what they are experiencing".

Dr Mary Horgan, president of the Royal College of Physicians, warned that "our doctors are among the most highly trained in the world and are being actively recruited by other health systems that offer flexibility, good work-life balance and tolerable work conditions. The Irish health system needs to accept this and step up to the challenge".

Surgeon Kenneth Mealy, who is president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said smaller hospitals were particularly suffering.

This is because jobs for surgeons in these hospitals are not seen as attractive because they require a diverse set of skills, with onerous rosters and limited access to other specialised facilities when required.

He called on the Government to soon deliver the promised three new hospitals concentrating on surgery for waiting-list patients. This would offer skilled surgeons viable career prospects, he added.

Irish Independent

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