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The Medical Practitioners Act is crippling doctors

I am currently based in University Hospital Waterford. Three-and-a-half years have passed since the recruitment from India and Pakistan, yet the doctor shortages still persist. As there is no plan made to retain doctors, who are now trained in the Irish health system and fully understand the system, exit rates of doctors remains high. This in turn is affecting the Irish health system and its patients.

Summarising the history from 2011: In the weeks before the July changeover, the then Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said that of 475 posts only 221 had been filled — leaving 254 vacancies still to be dealt with. The HSE conducted recruitment drives in India and Pakistan and identified a number of potentially suitable candidates, according to The Irish Times reports.

After being recruited, we worked in Irish health system for two years and provided service at a crucial time. We were finally asked at the beginning of 2013 by the Irish Medical Council (IMC) and the HSE to sit the PRES exam, or our registration would be in jeopardy. Most of the recruited doctors passed their PRES exam and obtained general registration but were denied training, which can be a ladder to career progression, as we all did our internship from India/Pakistan pre-2009.

Being a doctor from Pakistan, I can elaborate on the difficulties faced by myself and others like me. Primarily this is related to the Medical Practitioners Act that denies training job opportunities to a number of doctors of Pakistani background, who completed their House Jobs/internships in 2008 or earlier.

It means that all we can do in Ireland is service jobs and never progress in our career. How is that fair?

I, along with some of my other colleagues, have been in touch with the IMC in trying to find out as to why there has been such discrimination, in which doctors from Pakistan who have completed their internship pre-2009 are not eligible for training registration. The reply we received was that the Medical Practitioners Act states that only the internships completed in Pakistan in 2009 or afterwards met the IMC’s set standards for training and experience as required for the granting of a Certificate of Experience to an intern. However, these rules were made in 2012 and applied retrospectively for internship done in 2008. How fair is it that the doctors already recruited pre-2012 and working in Ireland were subjected to the rule retrospectively? In short, all Pakistani doctors who have done their internships in 2008 or earlier are not eligible for a training post, due to non-recognition of our internships by the Irish Medical Council, even after clearing the PRES exam.

My request to the IMC: We have been working here since 2011, having passed the PRES exam and are now doing post-grad exams. What solution can be offered for access to training registration so that we may progress in our careers? If we don’t get access to training registration, it means that we can never advance our medical career. It implies that I and many others like me will be forced to leave the Irish health system, leading to another shortage of doctors. This will again severely undermine patient safety within the Irish health system.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Wajiha Zia,

Working Committee Member, Overseas Medics of Ireland.

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