TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar confirmed Ireland will make medical history by offering over 1,000 internships this year ensuring every young graduating doctor is offered a job within the healthcare system.
The vow came as Mr Varadkar delivered a special address to 197 young medical graduates in the first 'virtual' conferring in the 175 year history of University College Cork (UCC).
Most of the 197 graduates will deploy early to Irish hospitals to help in the pandemic battle - with their assignments being confirmed by May 6.
Mr Varadkar said Ireland owes an enormous debt of gratitude to healthcare workers engaged in the frontline of the battle against Covid-19.
He said young graduating doctors will now play their part in the fight to control the pandemic.
“I know we're living in very strange times as a pandemic affects the world," he said.
“You are graduating early and you are doing so without being able to celebrate with your friends and your families as I know you'd like to.
"But there will be a time for that in the months ahead, when we develop new treatments, a new vaccine, a much better and more effective testing and contact tracing regime.
“In the meantime, we need you to graduate early and to start work as interns already because there is so much work to be done.
"I know you will be starting in posts in the middle of May, in hospitals, and also some of you in community settings, and for the first time ever, we are providing for over 1,000 internships for medical graduates in Ireland."
"That pretty much means that everyone graduating this year will be offered an internship,” he said.
The speech by the Taoiseach, who is a qualified doctor, was delivered as the entire graduation ceremony was brought forward to allow the overwhelming majority of the 2020 class to begin work immediately in Irish hospitals struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Student doctors normally begin their internships in July but this was brought forward by three months at all university medical schools to provide Irish hospitals with vital extra medical resources.
While the majority of the 197-strong class will now deploy to Irish hospitals, some will work at facilities in their native countries.
Some 126 UCC medical graduates are Irish with the remaining 71 drawn from 10 different countries.
UCC President Prof Patrick O’Shea said it was a suitable occasion to recognise the courage of Ireland’s frontline medical community and the resilience of the medical students who have joined them.
“UCC has worked closely with the HSE on a number of areas to ensure our health service is supported during this time," he said.
"Our frontline health workers have inspired us all in this anxious period and our medical students have shown both dedication and resilience.
"While we cannot hold a physical conferring, we are honoured that the Taoiseach is our guest speaker as together we underline the vital role our medical community is playing to protect our society.”
The Head of UCC's College of Medicine Prof Helen Whelton said the graduate doctors deserve tremendous credit.
‘’These medical students have shown tremendous resilience and adaptability in responding to the particular challenges posed by the Covid-19 infection, including sitting their exams early in a hugely stressful environment and are to be commended on their valiant efforts," she said.
"It is my great hope they celebrate this momentous occasion at home with their families and those closest to them. I’ve no doubt it will help to prepare students for the challenges and rewards of the courageous career path they have chosen."
The 'virtual' conferring ceremony was watched from 10 different countries which supplied students to the 2020 class.