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Open up health professions to more students - Ó Caoláin

16 August, 2005

Unless the issue of restricted access to education and training for health professions is addressed the crisis in our health services is certain to worsen, according to Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD. Deputy Ó Caoláin said he had been told by the Higher Education Authority that a key report on medical training and education was now with the Minister for Health and the Minister for Education but would not be published until October. He called on the Ministers to publish the report without further delay.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "Central Applications Office figures published this week show that only 4% of the 12,000 students who applied to study for health professions like medicine and dentistry actually got into those courses last year. There are not enough places in training and education and there are not enough professionals in the health system. The whole system is suffering as a result. Public patients in particular are not receiving the level of care and attention they need from health professionals.

"The Minister for Health Mary Harney and the Minister for Education Mary Hanafin now have the Report of the Medical Education and Training Working Group. Some of its findings were leaked in July and they highlight the over-dependence of the colleges on high fee-paying non-EU students. They call for more places for Irish and other EU students. The Ministers should publish the report and they should set out how they propose to address this very serious problem.

"The flawed system of training for the health professions is also part of an inequitable education system. Other figures published this week by the City of Dublin VEC show the link between access to higher education and social/geographical background. Less wealthy people have less chance of accessing third-level education. Inequality means that Irish society does not have the benefit of all those with the potential to be excellent doctors, dentists, consultants, speech therapists and so on because so many are denied access to training and education." ENDS

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