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International doctors’ scheme may facilitate extended leave

By Catherine Reilly - 17th Dec 2023

extended leave

The duration of the HSE International Medical Graduate Training Initiative (IMGTI) for scholarship trainees from Pakistan and Sudan may be increased to 36 months, if extended leave is required.

The HSE stated that expanding the scholarship scheme from 24 to 36 months in these circumstances is being considered. The duration of training for trainees fully sponsored by their governments is now 36 months with the potential for a further 12-month extension to meet identified training needs.

“Under such circumstances, all arrangements put in place to facilitate this 12-month extension, including the necessary visa and Medical Council registration, are contingent on the doctors’ continued participation in the IMG programme and the continued requirement that the trainee will return home upon completion of the programme,” said the HSE spokesperson.

In September 2021, it was noted at a meeting of the IMGTI joint committee that “if a trainee takes maternity leave on the programme they do not receive their full certificate of training”. The issue was raised during a section on the scholarship programme, according to minutes obtained under Freedom of Information law.

According to the HSE, the duration of training for the IMGTI scholarship programme is fixed at 24 months under partnership agreements with the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan and Sudan Medical Specialisation Board.

“While on the scholarship programme, these trainees hold the NCHD contract and receive maternity leave and all other terms and conditions as per that contract. If a trainee is required to take an extended period of leave during their 24 months, eg, maternity leave, the trainee will receive training credit only for the period of time in clinical training,” said the HSE’s spokesperson.

“If host countries are in support of an extension option in these circumstances the committee will progress discussions with relevant Irish partners including the Medical Council, visa, and work permits.”

The Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Act 2020 provided that the period of clinical training in the supervised division of the medical register can be extended to 36 months.

Meanwhile, the HSE confirmed it does not employ doctors on the IMGTI sponsored programmes. The doctors “remain in the employ of their government sponsor for the duration of their training in Ireland”.

“They receive a salary and benefits package from their sponsor that is at least equivalent to that of an Irish doctor working at the same level in Ireland.

“Although not employed by the HSE, many of the terms of the NCHD contract apply to IMGTI trainees on the sponsored programme, for example: Registration status, reporting relationship, leave, and holidays, etc.”

In 2022 there were 238 IMGTI doctors (138 scholarship and 100 sponsored) working in the Irish healthcare system, an increase of 30 from the previous year.

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