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COVID-19 and doctor emigration: the case of Ireland

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posted on 2022-01-18, 09:50 authored by Niamh Humphries, Jennifer Creese, John-Paul Byrne, John Connell
Abstract Background Since the 2008 recession, Ireland has experienced large-scale doctor emigration. This paper seeks to ascertain whether (and how) the COVID-19 pandemic might disrupt or reinforce existing patterns of doctor emigration. Method This paper draws on qualitative interviews with 31 hospital doctors in Ireland, undertaken in June–July 2020. As the researchers were subject to a government mandated work-from-home order at that time, they utilised Twitter™ to contact potential respondents (snowball sampling); and conducted interviews via Zoom™ or telephone. Findings Two cohorts of doctors were identified; COVID Returners (N = 12) and COVID Would-be Emigrants (N = 19). COVID Returners are Irish-trained emigrant doctors who returned to Ireland in March 2020, just as global travel ground to a halt. They returned to be closer to home and in response to a pandemic-related recruitment call issued by the Irish government. COVID Would-be Emigrants are hospital doctors considering emigration. Some had experienced pandemic-related disruptions to their emigration plans as a result of travel restrictions and border closures. However, most of the drivers of emigration mentioned by respondents related to underlying problems in the Irish health system rather than to the pandemic, i.e. a culture of medical emigration, poor working conditions and the limited availability of posts in the Irish health system. Discussion/conclusion This paper illustrates how the pandemic intensified and reinforced, rather than radically altered, the dynamics of doctor emigration from Ireland. Ireland must begin to prioritise doctor retention and return by developing a coherent policy response to the underlying drivers of doctor emigration.

Funding

Thanks to the HRB for funding the Hospital Doctor Retention and Motivation (HDRM) Project via an Emerging Investigator Award (EIA-2017-022) to NH.

History

Citation

Humphries, N., Creese, J., Byrne, JP. et al. COVID-19 and doctor emigration: the case of Ireland. Hum Resour Health 19, 29 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12960-021-00573-4

Author affiliation

Department of Health Sciences

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Human Resources for Health

Volume

19

Pagination

29

Publisher

BMC, World Health Organization

eissn

1478-4491

Acceptance date

2021-02-23

Copyright date

2021

Available date

2021-03-03

Language

en

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