There are “too few positions” available for junior doctors in hospitals, who should at least be offered temporary locum work, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said.
The IMO has highlighted a lack of placements for junior doctors in July when rotations across Irish hospitals take place.
A survey of 233 junior or Non Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs) last week found many were struggling to secure posts in July, in particular senior house officers (SHOs) who have completed their studies and internship.
The situation has been compounded by Covid-19, which saw many young doctors returning home and also limited travel opportunities for trainee doctors looking to get experience abroad.
One junior doctor told the Irish Examiner there were 15 applicants for every SHO post and that she had to make alternative plans in the absence of a job.
Sarah (not real name) recently finished her internship year at a major Dublin teaching hospital, where she worked extra nights and weekends throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
A third of trainee doctors, she said, worked more than 60 hours per week because the health system was at “breaking point”.
In the next month Sarah, who is in her mid-20s, will be a fully registered doctor but she will not be taking up an SHO post.
“I applied for two jobs and got interviews but there were more than 15 people competing for each post and that would be a lot higher than normal,” Sarah explained.
“My plan was always to work and stay in Ireland. It’s disheartening there is nothing available,” she said.
Sarah has “made peace” with her new plans to study further and do some agency work: “A lot of people like me have applied for masters programmes now because there were no jobs available”.
The scarcity of junior doctor posts has also impacted on her wider circle of friends, she said: “I have friends that came back from Australia and not only did they not have jobs in July but they lost their jobs because they were no longer needed. It’s quite insulting to them.”
Many would not step up again if a second Covid-19 wave struck the country.
I don’t think anyone would be willing to come back because they’ve seen how everybody was treated the first time.
In a statement issued to the Irish Examiner, the IMO said difficulties securing placements in July highlighted a “complete lack of proper manpower planning” in the health service.
“Unfortunately, it appears that the State expects that many doctors will emigrate or leave the Register on an annual basis, and we are seeing the repercussions of that short-sightedness now, with too few positions available for our medical workforce when so many have answered Ireland’s call during the Covid-19 pandemic and come home to help,” the IMO statement said.
The IMO said all junior doctors must be offered temporary locum work to alleviate the pressure on “overworked” doctors.
They said: “The irony is that our health system as a whole is staffed with far too few overworked doctors who could benefit hugely from the expertise of this cohort, all of whom must be offered temporary locum work at the very least by the State so that patients can be offered the best care.
“We desperately need a long-term plan to build a resilient, well-staffed health system so that doctors know that they are truly valued in Ireland,” the IMO added.