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Autumn medical graduates ‘struggling’ due to lack of intern places

Doctors who graduated from medical schools in autumn are “jobless” and “struggling” as there is no second entry point to intern year, a representative for the group has said.

One of the affected doctors told the Medical Independent (MI) they are aware of approximately 25 doctors who deferred their final-year exams, which were staged several weeks early due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reasons for deferral included family and health issues, as well as concerns over preparedness in the context of the exams being held early.

According to the representative, who preferred not to have their name published, some of the affected doctors are mature graduates with families. Doctors are facing financial stress and fears around becoming “de-skilled”, they said.

Some graduates had believed there would be an opportunity to enter the current intern year while deferring exams.

IMO Industrial Relations Officer Mr Paul Maier told Ml there are a number of doctors who, for various reasons, undertook final-year exams in August. “These doctors have completed their education and are now fully qualified doctors, ready to enter internship. However, these doctors are being required to wait until July 2021 to undertake an intern post, and due to Medical Council regulations, cannot practise as a doctor in any capacity prior to their internship.”

Mr Maier said the IMO is calling upon HSE National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP) and the Department of Health “to uphold the Minister for Health’s commitment to hire all newly-graduated doctors by offering internship positions to these medical graduates”.

“As we see pressure on our health service increase yet again in the context of Covid-19, these doctors will be a resource to [ensure] we are able to provide interns adequate rest and access to Covid-related leave as required.”

A HSE spokesperson said candidates “can apply for the next intern intake for July 2021” with the application process opening on 23 October. They said “there is only one intern intake annually”.

Prof Carmel Malone, Head of the Irish Medical Schools Council (IMSC), said it has advocated for a second intake of interns for many years.

“Quite apart from academic issues, every year there are students who need to defer due to pregnancy, illness or adverse family events and they are made to wait until the next summer to commence their medical career,” she told MI.

Decisions pertaining to the intern year including intake times, numbers, application and allocation processes “rest entirely” within HSE NDTP, HBS [Health Business Services] Recruit and the Medical Intern Unit.

Data on deferrals across the schools is not held by the IMSC. Prof Malone said the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, where she is Head, “did not experience a significant increase in students seeking deferrals.”

“The IMSC has also requested a review of intern numbers,” added Prof Malone. “With the exception of once off uplift in response to the Covid pandemic in March, these numbers have not been substantially increased in many years in line with activity and workload throughout the acute hospital service.

The IMSC is committed to working with all stakeholders including the Department of Health, HSE and Irish Medical Council to ensure the continued training of high quality graduates of Irish medical schools, who in turn would be highly valued fully registered doctors within the Irish healthcare system.”

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