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Qualified doctor prevented from becoming vaccinator

By Catherine Reilly - 09th Jul 2021

Stethoscope or phonendoscope on a doctor's white desk on cloudy morning, for treatment of cold or flu.

A qualified doctor, who is awaiting the resumption of the Medical Council PRES 3 exam, cannot take up the offer of a vaccinator position due to the lack of an employment permit.

Dr Faisal Rehman, whose wife is working as a doctor in the Irish health service, is awaiting the recommencement of the Medical Council’s PRES 3 clinical skills exam, which has been suspended since March 2020 due to the pandemic.

Dr Rehman needs to undertake the exam to attain general registration with the Council and take up a position as a doctor in Ireland.  

The Medical Council has advised PRES 3 candidates who already live in Ireland they can consider the option of registration in the supervised division while waiting to sit the exam.

Dr Rehman told the Medical Independent (MI) he is aware of a small number of doctors who have been successful in finding a supervised post, but such positions can be difficult to obtain.

While awaiting the PRES 3 exam or finding a supervised post, Dr Rehman has been eager to use his medical skills to contribute to the public health emergency response. He successfully completed the mandatory HSE online certificate course for vaccinator positions and completed Garda vetting but does not have permission to work under his current immigration stamp (dependant status). He could not, therefore, take up the offer of a position.

Dr Rehman said he was “disappointed” that he is prevented from working as a vaccinator in the pandemic. More broadly, he expressed concern about the gap in his career record and skillset while awaiting the resumption of PRES 3 or availability of a supervised post.  

The health system has a high dependency on international doctors, who face numerous other logistical barriers in Ireland, including access to training posts and critical skills permits.

A spokesperson for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment told MI: “The employment permit system is driven by labour/skills shortages. The Department has not been notified by the HSE of any shortage of vaccinators in the State.

“The Employment Permit Acts do not contain any provisions which would provide for temporary employment permits. Doctors are eligible for an employment permit, subject to registration with the Medical Council. The Department has been prioritising the granting of permits to medical professionals throughout the pandemic.”

According to the HSE, most vaccination centres are fully staffed with 1,459 whole-time equivalent vaccinators in post in centres nationally.

However, it said vaccinators will continue to be recruited over the coming months to ensure sufficient manpower to meet vaccine supply and provide cover for leave over the summer period.

MI was awaiting comment from the Medical Council about resumption of PRES 3.

As of April 2021, approximately 200 international doctors were waiting to take the exam.

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