Wednesday 19 June 2019

Top medics warn of 'unsustainable' doctor emigration

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Markus Krug

More and more doctors are leaving Ireland despite the general economic recovery, a new report has shown.

While general migration to Australia decreased after 2014, the report shows the number of health professionals emigrating has risen every year since then.

Dr. Clive Kilgallen, Chairman of the Consultants’ Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said the trend is "unsustainable".

"This shows that doctors are unwilling and, in many cases, unable to stay working in a health system which is unfit for purpose following years of Government austerity. Because of this, patient care in Ireland is suffering badly," Dr Kilgallen told Independent.ie.

In 2018, more than 500 consultant posts in hospital and community settings were vacant around Ireland.

He said pay cuts are the main reason for doctors emigrating, and added that they are still in effect since the recession.

"This is a systemic issue, in particular for consultants appointed after 2012, who could be working for up to €50,000 per year less than their colleagues who were appointed before 2012 and are doing the same job."

Fellow member of the Consultants’ Committee, Dr. Anthony O’Connor described how the situation has changed in comparison to the past.

"We always had medical emigration; usually for extra skills and a limited amount of time. But now doctors stay away longer and sometimes don’t come back at all anymore."

He outlined the effects that this trend has on patients around the country.

"It has the biggest impact on waiting lists. Around 700,000 people are waiting to see a consultant in hospitals. It also affects morale, if doctors are covering the work of two or three people."

Dr Kilgallen has called for an immediate reversion of these pay cuts in order to better the conditions for doctors and to make staying in Ireland more attractive.

His colleague Dr. O’Connor also called for "necessary resources" in hospitals.

"They don’t want to apologise to patients all the time for not being able to do their job to the best of their abilities," he said.

The report also revealed that due to these trends, Ireland is increasingly dependent on internationally-trained doctors. Their numbers have increased from 13.4 pc in 2000 to 42 pc in 2017.

"It is almost unethical because we are taking people from other countries that can’t afford to lose their best doctors," said Dr. O’Connor.

At the same time the number of Irish graduates cannot compensate for the emigration. In 2014, only 684 graduates went into the profession while 627 doctors emigrated in the same year.

Dr. O’Connor gave his view on how the situation would develop if there are no steps taken to reverse the development.

"If this trend continues, the waiting lists would get even longer. You will end up with more complaints and it would look really bleak in the near future."

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