Irish Medical Organisation

Statement: IMO warns of “unsustainable” doctor emigration

Expert health report shows high rate of doctor emigration has continued despite economic recovery


Wednesday, May 29th, 2019.  The Chairman of the Consultants’ Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has warned that sustained doctor emigration is having a seriously damaging effect on the health service and is something that needs to be urgently addressed by the Government.


Dr. Clive Kilgallen was speaking after the publication yesterday (Tuesday) of an expert study published in Human Resources for Health (Bio Med Central) entitled ‘Tracking the leavers: towards a better understanding of doctor migration from Ireland to Australia 2008 – 2018’.


“This report shows that, although general migration to Australia decreased as the economy recovered after 2014, the number of doctors emigrating to Australia has continued to rise year-on-year since then. This shows that doctors are unwilling and, in many cases, unable to stay working in a health system which is unfit for purpose following years of Government austerity. Because of this, patient care in Ireland is suffering badly.”


Dr. Kilgallen said that unfair, recession-era cuts were a huge factor in Irish doctors’ decision to move abroad. “This is a systemic issue, in particular for consultants appointed after 2012, who could be working for up to €50,000 per year less than their colleagues who were appointed before 2012 and are doing the same job. This is grossly unfair and it is no wonder so many of them have turned their backs on our health service.”


Some of the findings referenced in the report include:

  • Ireland’s dependence on internationally-trained doctors (measured as a proportion of those registered to practice medicine in Ireland) has increased from 13.4% in 2000 to 42% in 2017.
  • There were 500 vacant consultant posts in hospital and community settings in Ireland in 2018.
  • In 2014, Ireland graduated 684 EU/Irish doctors, while in the same year 627 doctors emigrated from Ireland to Australia, the UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand.


“These figures are clearly unsustainable for our health service. The Government needs to act urgently to fully reverse cuts in order to provide the conditions that our doctors need in which to work safely and effectively,” said Dr. Kilgallen.


“The recent reversal of Fempi-era GP cuts, secured by the IMO, is just the start of the process. We hope that the Government comes to its senses sooner rather than later, so that Irish people can receive the healthcare that they deserve.”


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