Tuesday 20 March 2018

Why are qualified doctors sitting idle, awaiting orders?


ON AND on the saga goes with the HSE. I have often wondered over the years that despite the many things they get right, when they get it wrong, they really get it wrong.

Something that may have slipped under the radar because of our national braodcaster's obsession with the economy and impending worldwide disaster, was the fact a number of the doctors recruited in a rush to fill junior hospital doctor posts have been left sitting in B&Bs, twiddling their thumbs and wondering when they will get to work in the glittering arena that is our accident and emergency departments.

And more than that, at least one of them has spoken out about the emotional and physical strain that not knowing is what happening or when they will start work is taking on them. Many of these highly qualified people have come from secure, long-term jobs in their home countries of Pakistan and India, lured, like many Irish-qualified nurses who've left these shores, by the promise of a better standard of living and better pay and conditions.

Imagine you answer an advert in a paper here looking for people to come and work in Pakistan in your specialised field of expertise. You think about it, you talk to your family and you say to yourself that you're young, ambitious and ready to meet the challenge. You sign up, do the interviews, get offered the job and you're away.

It would be a big change for us to land in Lahore or Mumbai, so it's not hard to visualise the culture shock these young doctors are facing when they come to Dublin. But despite waiting now for many weeks, too many of them have been left sitting in their accommodation, wondering if they will ever see the Promised Land of an Irish hospital.

The HSE's excuse, is, as always, reasonable at first glance. They say that they have dome 'virtually everything' required to get these doctors working and most have taken up their positions. There are a small number, they say, of doctors where there are a number of outstanding issues around registration but the HSE says they are 'actively supporting' those who are still waiting to start work.

Why on earth these doctors were brought from their home countries to sit and look out the window at the Irish rain before everything was in place to employ them is anyone's guess. It also begs the question why we are taking doctors from hard-pressed countries like Pakistan and India when they have more than enough work to do in the countries that educated and supported their careers in the first place. And I'm not the only one to think that: there's even a World Health Organisation voluntary recruitment code that asks that 'medical staff not be recruited from poorer countries that are already facing critical staff shortages'.

The HSE hasn't signed up to this code, obviously. You have to wonder if the HSE is treating junior doctors like this, what hope for the proper treatment of medical card patients? and if you were feeling sorry for the poor doctors who are waiting to start work, spare a thought for the ones who already have got into the hallowed halls of our hospitals. I'm sure that they are as shocked by the overcrowding, the lack of resources and the cutbacks as the rest of us.

But maybe being from 'a poor country with a critical shortage of vital medical staff ', it might just feel like home?