Hospitals recruit 115 junior doctors from Pakistan to keep going
HOSPITALS have had to recruit 115 trainee medics from Pakistan to try to maintain services from next month amid fears of another major shortage in junior doctors.
It comes as hundreds of Irish- trained junior doctors are among those who are shunning posts in hospitals here and opting for training abroad, despite the taxpayer paying up to €100,000 to fund each of their degrees in medical school.
The knock-on effect for patients is that hospitals are drawing up contingency plans which could see clinics and other services reduced in the coming weeks in order to ensure control is maintained over standards of safety as the doctors switch jobs as part of their six-month training schedules.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) said yesterday that there is an ongoing vacancy rate of 100 to 120 junior doctors posts in hospitals and the shortage of some grades is particularly felt in emergency departments.
It is hiring doctors from Pakistan and other EU States, said a spokeswoman.
The shortage of doctors means more payments of around €1,000 a day to agency staff who are needed to maintain rosters.
However, the HSE said the positions will be filled.
"Vacancy data to date suggests that the fill rate of posts is slightly ahead of same period in 2013 and taking this into account, it is not anticipated at this time that there will be any reduction in service arising from difficulties filling posts," a spokeswoman said.
The HSE said it also trying to make training posts more attractive by offering contracts of one to two years for some jobs.
It is now on its second round of recruitment to fill basic jobs for trainees in specialties such as obstetrics, psychiatry, general practice and opthalmology.
Health Minister James Reilly said figures show that the educational cost of educating a doctor in an Irish medical school is now in the region of €80,000 to €100,000.
"This cost does not all fall to be met by the State," he said.
"In relation to undergraduate medical programmes, most students pay a student contribution; this is currently set at €2,500 per annum and will rise to €3,000 in 2015. Grant holders may have this paid on their behalf.
"Undergraduate students who are not eligible for "free fees" are liable to pay fees. In relation to graduate medical programmes, the student pays a fee of approximately €15,000 per year. "
Fine Gael Senator Colm Burke has called on the minister to make it a requirement that doctors whose education is paid for should work in an Irish hospital for the first three of the five years after graduation.
Around 600 are graduating from medical schools here annually but half of these emigrate after they complete their intern year, he added.