Healthcare worker battling Covid in Cork calls for fast-tracking of non-EU citizenship applications

Healthcare worker battling Covid in Cork calls for fast-tracking of non-EU citizenship applications

A Cork-based healthcare worker has called on the Government to fast track non-EU doctors’ citizenship applications.

Respiratory registrar at Cork University Hospital (CUH) Junaid Khan, who is originally from Pakistan, has resided in Ireland for over six years and currently lives with his family in Cork.

15 months ago, Dr Khan applied for citizenship and the frontline worker, who has been tackling the current pandemic head-on in his post at CUH, has yet to receive any correspondence in relation to his application.

He said that not receiving citizenship will have a knock-on effect on his career as without it, he cannot get a training job and move up the ranks to become a consultant.

“It significantly alters us professionally if we are not citizens because we are not allowed training posts. Priority is given to Irish citizens first, then EU and then the rest of the world, which is us.

“We’ve been long talking about the plight of Irish doctors who go to Australia and New Zealand, there’s about 2,800 that went from 2015 to 2017 from Ireland to other countries, which is why the Irish health system now has about 6,000 non-EU doctors helping out.

“Not all of them are eligible because you have to wait five years but a few hundred of them have definitely applied and they still can't call it their home because they cannot get training jobs,” he said.

He said that since applying back in October 2019, that he has had no answer and he continues to do the same job that he has been doing for three years, which he said he loves, but that he cannot move up the ladder without his citizenship.

“This is one of the issues that non-EU doctors wake up with every day, I'm still doing the same job I was three years ago because I am waiting for citizenship, that’s why it hurts me the most,” he said.

Dr Khan said that “it's about time that the Government and the State takes ownership of its health care workers and those on the front line” and called for clarity to be given to applicants.

National Industrial Relations Officer of the IMO, Paul Maier, said that a letter to the Minister of Justice Helen McEntee is being finalised.

The IMO has been engaged in the issue since before the pandemic and said it supports a way to make sure that delays in processing applications for citizenship are eliminated for doctors because “it does impact their ability to progress into specialist training schemes and they can't compete on equal footing with others”.

Speaking to The Echo, Mr Maier said that it is not just about the issue of non-EU doctors not being trained to do the work of those who are, but that it “often is that they are but are not being recognised for it”.

“Especially if you’re a registrar, a relatively senior Non-Consultant Hospital Doctor (NCHD), you’ve had a number of years of experience and have a specialisation in an area.

“There are some registrars who are not on training schemes but they provide independent clinical judgement on areas in medicine, they evaluate patients and they perform independently with the delegated responsibility of their consultant, and so the time they spend working is not considered part of their training that would be required to become a consultant.

“Others are on a training scheme and so that time does count as time to become a consultant so you can have many people who have very similar, if not the very same, responsibilities and one is being recognised and the other is not, simply because one is on the scheme and the other is not,” he said.

Mr Maier said that the International Doctors’ Working Group, which is the sub-group of the NCHD committee, is working on the issue from the point of view that “not only should it be that these doctors have the opportunity to get into a training scheme because they receive citizenship, but that those who are not on a training scheme have greater opportunities to learn and build on experience and have that experience recognised for accreditation to become a specialist registrar or specialist doctor”.

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