A Cork TD has called on the Minister for Health to reverse a decision that would see the cancellation of hundreds of extra training places that were created for graduating doctors during the pandemic.
A campaign has been launched by final year medical students who are advocating for the retention of intern jobs for every graduating doctor this year who wants to work in Ireland.
The annual intake of medical interns was increased from 734 to approximately 1,100 last April in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for the campaign has said that the decision to revert to 734 places this year will impact up to 18 places for newly qualified doctors in Cork across a number of hospitals including Cork University Hospital (CUH) and the Bon Secours.
Dr Cormac Duff, who is a paediatrician at the Rotunda Hospital said that the decision to cut the places this year will particularly impact non-EU students who do not get preference for places.
“We allow hundreds of well-qualified, well-trained doctors to leave every year," he said.
"So, this year although the Covid-19 pandemic is still in full swing and although COVID infection rates remain high across Ireland, the HSE is planning to cut these hundreds of interns across the country."
Dr Duff said that he is “disappointed and frustrated” by the decision.
“Many of these students have come from the United States, from Canada from the Middle East, from South East Asia and they have been living in Ireland for the last five to six years…they are raring to go, and they would love to work in the Irish hospitals and help Irish patients and they are being denied this opportunity."
He said that many of the doctors have been volunteering on ICU wards throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Solidarity TD Mick Barry has called on the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD to reverse the decision to cut the approximate 300 additional internships for graduate doctors in Irish hospitals this summer.
The Cork North-Central TD said that those who may not receive an internship in Ireland will be forced to emigrate and deploy their skills elsewhere.
"The Minister needs to reverse this decision and offer jobs to those 300 graduates," he said.
The HSE has said that the increase in intern numbers was an emergency measure in direct response to the pandemic and was “not planned and was never intended to be sustained”.
“As we are coming out of the third wave of COVID and facing increased waiting lists and other challenges the focus is on ensuring we have the appropriate staff to deal with the impact of COVID,” a statement read.
“As part of the planned investment by the HSE in additional staffing, services and infrastructure the HSE will be investing in additional staffing in 2021. The HSE’s Winter Plan includes additional workers for the HSE across all professions.”
The HSE confirmed that the national number of medical internship posts available for July 2021 has reverted to 734, which is the standard annual intake in line with current workforce planning projections.
“Intern places are determined by workforce planning requirements in line with current government policy. The number of intern places in line with the numbers of training posts available in specialist training programmes, the next step in the training pathway following completion of an internship.”
To date, this year the HSE said that it has recruited almost 4,700 extra staff.