Health Minister James Reilly yesterday promised to bring in new legislation to put an end to the "bizarre" practice of doctors from other EU countries coming to work here without undergoing a competency test.
He made the pledge after the Irish Independent revealed that 1,600 EU medics are free to work here despite not facing any sort of medical skills exam.
The revelation comes in the wake of the case involving Romanian junior doctor Asia Ndaga (31), who was hired to work in Letterkenny GeneralHospital, Co Donegal, last July but was found to be unable to take a patient's pulse.
Doctors from other EU countries are allowed to register here without any test as long as they provide evidence of medical qualifications and disciplinary record.
The Medical Council, which wants doctors exempt from this freedom-of-movement rule, confirmed that 1,600 doctors from other EU countries are registered here. It is unclear where they are working because the council does not have the employment records of doctors.
Dr Reilly said he was concerned these EU doctors, unlike their colleagues from outside the EU, were not even required to pass a test proving their competency in speaking English.
"It is bizarre and I intend to expedite legislation to change this," he told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.
Meanwhile, Cathal Magee, chief executive of the Health Service Executive (HSE), said there were 191 vacancies for junior doctors in hospitals across the country. He told the committee he was hopeful the "the sourcing" of highly trained doctors from Pakistan and India would alleviate shortages.