Thursday, 12 May 2022
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
It is an enormous challenge to recruit and retain healthcare staff, including doctors and that is not unique to Ireland. That is very much a global phenomenon. There is not a health service that I am aware of, certainly not in Europe, that does not have a difficulty recruiting and retaining staff. There is much more demand for healthcare than there are qualified doctors, nurses and midwives in the world. That is why, just like lots of other countries, we rely so much on people coming from overseas to help to staff our health service. We are very grateful that they come here and do that. I do not have exact details on Cuba but I certainly do not see any reason why somebody in Cuba could not apply for a work visa to come here and work in our health service.
We should acknowledge, and this is not often acknowledged, that we have more doctors working in our public health service than ever before. One would get the impression sometimes that the number of doctors in our health service was going down and that more people were leaving than were coming in but that is not the case. We have never had more doctors working in our health service than we do now. We have never had more staff in our health service than we do now. We are up to about 40,000 nurses and midwives in our public health service now, which is more per head and more per bed than almost any country in the western world. That is part of the story and it should be acknowledged. Yes, we do have a recruitment and retention problem and it is a big one. We are struggling in that area, as are lots of other countries but we do have record numbers of doctors, nurses and midwives now working in our health service.