The majority of medical students graduating this year want to stay working in Ireland but believe they will have little alternative than to move overseas, according to a survey. The research, conducted by Fine Gael’s spokesman on health in the Seanad, Senator Colm Burke, showed that the medical brain drain is set to continue, with nearly two-thirds of final-year medical students (65.5%) not planning on working within the Irish hospital system one year after their graduation.
The anonymised survey was co-ordinated between all the third-level medical training facilities and received responses from 178 final-year students, just under one-third of all final-year graduates. It found that many want to be working in Ireland in four years (44.5%) or 10 years (63.4%), and that 15.2% are willing to work in the General Practitioner Training Scheme in Ireland.
When asked about their favourite part of the degree courses, 90% said working in the hospital, but there was divergence of opinion over what point of contact there was most helpful, with 39% selecting registrars. Just 35% of those surveyed said they would stay working in an Irish hospital after completing their internship, while 38% said working in a hospital outside of Ireland or Britain.
Some said they wanted to travel but many believe working conditions and pay are better overseas, as well as there being a greater chance of career progression. Opinions also differed as to whether newly qualified doctors should give a specified period of service in our healthcare system: 29.6% strongly disagreed while 22.9% agreed.
Were there a compulsory service requirement, almost 70% said it should only be for one year. More than half of those questioned said more support services were needed for non-consultant hospital doctors within the system, but others wanted less on-call, more days for study leave, and more learning supports.
Explaining the results, Mr Burke said: "There are a number of factors attributed to the brain drain of our medical students, including dissatisfaction with medical training structures, lack of intern places, and working hours. "Permanency issues are also a feature, with doctors appointed to training posts often being provided with contracts of between six and 12 months. In the UK, contracts of up to three years are the norm. "We have been losing junior doctors overseas for too long now," he said.
The survey also allowed contributions from respondents. One wrote: "There is going to be too many Irish students graduating for the amount of intern places available in a year or so. What are the solutions to this?" Another said: "No wonder junior doctors leave when they are underpaid, overworked, and treated like second-class citizens regularly," and another wrote that "spending five years training and then being told there is not enough places for us.
We have no option but to go abroad. The system is a joke". Another comment read: "The focus should be on the training not so much on the hours. In the USA the hours are long but you reap the rewards of the standard of education you will receive. "It’s ironic that if you stay here and work your way up, someone who left and trained abroad will be given the consultancy post! That is the issue!"
Noel Baker - Irish Examiner