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Intern place restrictions ‘very unfair’ on non-EU medical students

The HSE should increase intern training positions to allow graduates of Irish medical schools to obtain intern training in Ireland, the IMO national NCHD meeting agreed.

SHO Dr Domhnall McGlacken Byrne said it was “really unfair” that some non-Irish doctors graduating from Irish medical schools were not entitled to an intern position. 

Upon entering an Irish medical school, it was “reasonable for someone to assume” they would eventually be able to practise medicine in Ireland.

Many overseas students were unaware of restrictions on intern places before taking up their studies and this was “very unfair” on them, said Dr McGlacken Byrne. He said it was also a disservice to a health service that was not retaining its doctors. 

Dr McGlacken Byrne said due to under-funding of higher education, non-EU students were relied upon to “keep our medical schools afloat financially”.

Yet despite keeping the fees down for other students, they were “not entitled to a job on the first rung of the ladder”, he said.

Some non-EU students took out loans of up to €50,000 per year for fees and €10,000-€20,000 for living expenses during their medical school studies, the meeting also heard.

Psychiatry registrar Dr Norella Broderick said “the HSE may feel they are restricted by EU law in terms of giving preference to EU nationals”, but that restructuring the internship to be part of the degree could potentially overcome this situation.

NCHD Committee Chair Dr Paddy Hillery added it would be important to ensure interns were seen as employees and not as medical students.

Meanwhile, the meeting also called on the Government to enact legislation allowing all doctors who meet competency standards to compete for specialist training positions and for the HSE to increase training positions to allow these candidates the opportunity to obtain such positions.

Anaesthesiology registrar Dr Gabriel Beecham said “a lot of these people were lured to the country under false pretences and promises of training opportunities”.

Dr Hillery welcomed the recent publication of draft legislation which proposes to widen access to specialist training for non-EU doctors by removing the requirement for internship equivalency.

While this Bill has been included as a priority in the Government’s spring legislation programme, Dr Hillery said it had been “‘urgent’ Dáil business for the last three years”.

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