Debt-burdened medical graduates are shunning general practice because the starting salary is too low.
Some are struggling to pay loans of up to €100,000 on a basic internship salary of about €2,583 a month, it emerged yesterday.
The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) said many of the medical graduates were forced to emigrate to get higher-paid jobs.
The NAGP wants the Government to put supports in place for indebted medical graduates to encourage them to remain in Ireland and become GPs.
The group said members of the previous administration gave assurances that the issue would be addressed in the 2015 budget.
NAGP chief executive Chris Goodey warned that the shortage of doctors in general practice would continue if medical student debt was not addressed.
A study by University College Cork found that medical students who graduate with debt were less likely to become GPs.
“It is difficult to identify any progress which has been made to alleviate the crisis,” said Mr Goodey. “Graduate medical students continue to pay approximately €15,000 in fees per year and are not eligible for any state financial aid.
“The Government must put in place supports to reduce medical graduate debt. As long as the financial burden exists the shortage of doctors in general practice will not be addressed.
“We know that 915 GPs have declared their intention to retire, or emigrate, in the next three to five years. Action must be taken now.”
The UCC survey of 212 students in 2014 found that medical students who graduate with debt are less likely to become GPs. Also, students from high-income backgrounds are most likely to opt for surgery rather than a GP practice.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved