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07th Apr 2023

Health service could turn to Cuba for help as 60% of graduate doctors emigrate

Emily Mullen

The HSE endured its worst month on record for overcrowding during March.

As Ireland’s health service stretches to breaking point off the back of staggering junior doctor emigration figures, the solution of turning to the Cuban health system has been muted by the country’s ambassador to Ireland.

The proposal was made by Ambassador Bernardo Guanche Hernández following a record-setting month for hospital overcrowding figures, with almost 13,000 patients treated on trollies in the state during March alone.

Cuban doctors Ireland

Pressure is mounting on both sides of the border, with health officials in Enniskillen holding conference calls with Cuban officials over the possibility of receiving staffing help from the Caribbean nation.

Likewise, on the other side of the border, Donegal TD Thomas Pringle called on the coalition government to seek the assistance of the Cubans after Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly failed to respond to his concerns regarding staff shortages.

“If Ireland needs the collaboration of Cuba to strengthen its health system, we are in the best disposition to consider it. We have not received an official request in this regard (but) it is something we have discussed with deputy Pringle”, the Ambassador remarked.

Despite no official approach from the government being made towards the Cuban authorities yet, the HSE, which leans heavily on overseas doctors to staff hospitals, plans to attract GPs internationally to Ireland according to its service plan for this year.

Cuban doctors Ireland

Junior doctors emigrate in droves:

Ireland trains roughly 750 doctors per year, but in 2022 alone, almost 60% of those junior doctors emigrated to Australia.

At its highest rate in over 12 years, these emigration figures have been steadily rising since 2019, and appear to be continually trending upwards.

Junior doctors in Ireland aren’t supposed to work more than 24 hours in a row, or 48 hours in a week, although they often exceed these limits.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said that the HSE routinely requires junior doctors to work “unsafe and illegal hours”.

Cuban doctors Ireland

Following their graduation from medical school, junior doctors in Irish hospitals can work anywhere from 65 to 80 hours per week, in what is a gruelling introduction to the Irish health service.

However, down under, recent graduates can be regularly found enjoying a 37-hour working week with excellent pay rates and working conditions included.

The Irish health system not only forces junior doctors to work in understaffed environments but also moves their place of work every six months, a concern absent from life as a medical professional in Australia.

Last October, when asked whether he believed junior doctors’ working conditions were much improved in Australia, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly stated: “Treat all of this with a healthy degree of scepticism”.

This article originally appeared on 

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