45% of hospital interns left system

Almost half of all interns placed at Irish hospitals last summer have now left the health service, raising fears “significant State resources” are being “wasted” on their training.

A new HSE report into the career paths of medical graduates, has found that despite the dire need for staff to run frontline services, a growing number of next-generation doctors are taking up posts abroad or quitting medicine entirely.

The report, drawn up by the HSE’s medical education and training unit, examined the working lives of 513 recent graduates.

Of these, 84% were from Ireland, 14% were non-EU graduates of Irish medical schools, and 2% were EU graduates of non-EU medical schools — with the latter group mainly comprised of Irish graduates from Eastern European and Irish-linked Chinese facilities.

In Sept 2011, after the placements finished, the 513 graduates’ career paths were re-checked, with the report finding 45% had left the system to work abroad or had left the profession.

This compared to 44% who remained in medical training positions in Ireland, 4% who were in non-training positions, 1% who had taken up another internship, and 6% who had declined training position offers.

The report stressed many future doctors spend time abroad after graduating before returning with greater experience, but it raised fears over the short-term impact this situation has on the system, and the medium to long-term impact at a time when Ireland was not considered an attractive place to work. The report said it would be important “to continue to track this cohort of interns over coming years and subsequent groups of interns, in order to gain a clear picture about the movement of doctors — particularly those trained in Ireland — and to assess more accurately the attrition rate of medical graduates who have completed internship”.

It said if the doctors did not return, the situation “would represent a waste of significant State resources, a missed opportunity to generate a domestically trained medical workforce and would have serious implications for individual students and their medical schools”.

The report comes just days after the Irish Medical Organisation’s AGM heard many doctors saw no future here. It heard that of this year’s graduates, 60 to 80 would be forced to leave for internships as there were not enough Irish places.

A survey of existing interns, conducted by Senator Colm Burke (FG), is to be published next month.

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