Intern Cuts at Wexford General Confirmed

Wexford General Hospital

A number of weeks ago we brought you story about the possibility of reduced intern numbers at Wexford General Hospital. The HSE have now confirmed this to be true.

The issue was first raised by Verona Murphy TD who subsequently submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister for Health looking for answers. The HSE responded by saying the following:

“Two additional medical interns were assigned to Wexford General since last year. This brought the total number of interns to five. However, for 2021 the hospital will receive three interns in total.”

This news of a decrease appears to be in conflict with a press release issued by the Minister for Health on Monday March 22nd, in which he says there will be in increase of 120 medical intern posts for 2021, …, to 854 places.

Wexford General will apparently not benefit from this supposed increase, or perhaps it is not really an increase at all. The figures should tell the story:

Figures from the HSE and the Keep Our Doctors campaign place the number of intern posts for 2020 between 992 and 1,100. If there were at least 992 interns in 2020, and if the proposed ‘increase’ according to the Minister for Health will bring the number 854, then something clearly does not add up here.

The HSE and the Minister are using 2019 intern figures as the basis for comparison. When comparing 2019 figures to 2021 proposals, there will indeed be an increase of 120 interns, but when comparing 2020 figures to 2021 proposals there will be a decrease of at least 138 interns, including a decrease of two at Wexford General as confirmed by the HSE.

Number of interns per year based on HSE figures:

2020Up to 1,100 (estimated 992)

Are there any frontline staff lost in Wexford Hospital?

In normal circumstances, interns would not be considered frontline staff, however, when announcing the original intern increase back in 2020, Prof Frank Murray, Director of National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP), described how important they are in a Covid context: “these new doctors are required in response to the pressures that will undoubtedly face our health service staff in the near future as a result of increased workload, reconfigured and realigned bed capacity, and reduced staffing numbers as a result of sick leave and self-isolation due to COVID-19.”

In 2020, when Professor Murray made this statement, he pointed to the importance of extra interns in Covid response. Do these Covid pressures which Prof Murray referred to no longer exist?

If the importance placed on these extra interns was sincere, then it makes little sense for there to be fewer in 2021 than in 2020 considering the government still feel the situation bad enough to warrant continued level 5 restrictions. On the other hand, if the importance placed on these extra interns was insincere then it may be just another example of government spin, along with describing a decrease as an increase.

The HSE say: “this decision will have no impact on patient safety or the treatment of patients, which continues to be the priority for Wexford General Hospital”.

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