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Impact of pandemic on Irish doctor emigration uncertain

By Mindo - 21st Sep 2020

The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the emigration plans of Irish doctors is difficult to predict, a leading expert in the area has told this newspaper.

“It is difficult to say how the pandemic will impact on doctor emigration from Ireland in the longer term,” Dr Niamh Humphries (PhD), Reader in Health Systems Research, and part of the RCPI Hospital Doctor Retention and Motivation (HDRM) team, told the Medical Independent (MI).

“But our research with hospital doctors has consistently highlighted that good working conditions are key to doctor retention. I would imagine that this will remain true during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

She added that, in the short-term, the pandemic has presented plenty of challenges for emigrant doctors, returning emigrant doctors and for those doctors who had been planning on emigrating this year.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the HDRM team has conducted interviews to see how the Covid-19 crisis has impacted Irish doctors living abroad and those planning a move. The research is expected to be published in the coming months.

A spokesperson for the IMO said specific challenges for Irish doctors living abroad during the pandemic included concern “about getting home and about the lack of capacity and investment [in the Irish health service], which hobbled us even before [Covid-19]”.

Irish doctors living abroad contacted by MI highlighted the lack of consultant status for public health doctors, work-life balance and long working hours as barriers to returning to work in the Irish health service.

“As things stand, I’d find it extraordinarily difficult to go home to a non-consultant job,” Dr Niall Conroy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine in Queensland, Australia, told MI.

“I love outbreak control, but it’s very hard to do the job properly in Ireland without the team and the autonomy that comes with a consultant contract.” See news feature, pages 4-5

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