A radiologist in Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) has said perhaps the Irish government should adopt a policy similar to Canada where medical professionals are paid higher wages as an incentive to work in remote areas.
Dr. Conall Mac a' Bhaird left a full-time position almost seven years ago and his position remains unfilled. He said that the radiology department at LUH needs at least seven radiologists to function but currently only have five.
Dr. Mac a' Bhaird now works part-time at the Letterkenny-based hospital.
In an interview with Frances Nic Géadaigh on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Mr Mac a Bhaird said:
“I left full-time work almost seven years ago now, and my position has not yet been filled, and a colleague also moved to half-time work and his position was not filled either. It’s hard to get suitable candidates for the work outside of the major cities. There should be seven radiologists to provide a reasonable service (in the department), but there are only five.”
He added that CT and MRI scanners should be use 12 hours a day, but are only in use from 9am to 5pm most of the time and that inadequate staffing dictates that they could be used less.
"You do your best to priorities the most important cases, and then if something is not urgent, it goes on the long finger,” he said.
Dr. Mac a Bhaird said that it was very difficult to recruit people to hospitals outside the main cities, and that the positions needed to be permanent. He suggested that the Irish government might adopt a similar approach to their Canadian counterparts.
“As you know, pay rates were cut in the public service a number of years ago ... and if people are working somewhere where they’ve good pay and conditions, it’s very hard to entice them home. They did make some effort to fill the positions, but they didn’t get suitably-qualified people. You need permanent jobs, you’ll always get a better service with permanent jobs. You’re only filling a gap when you get part-time people, filling in for a few months,” he said.
He said that in Canada where there are lots of hospitals in remote areas, and it’s hard to entice people to work in these areas, that the government pay people much higher wages to go and work in these regions.
He said: "I think we’ll have to look at something like that in order to entice people to places like Letterkenny Hospital.”