Studying Medicine should not be the reserve of one class in society - Rose Conway-Walsh TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has highlighted the scale of inequality in the training of doctors and called for action to resolve it.
Speaking in the Dáíl, Teachta Conway-Walsh said that the government must make it possible for ordinary people to access Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM).
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
"Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) is an alternative route into studying medicine. However, it is a route that is out of reach for most students and families.
"Fees are approximately 15,000 a year - 60,000 over the 4 years. There are no government supports to help students that don’t come from wealthy families.
"The only option is a bank loan from a sole provider. However, to secure the necessary bank loan a student needs to be independently wealthy or have a guarantor that earns more than 50,000 euro a year.
"Most people in this country don’t earn 50,000 a year. If a student’s parents do not earn enough they are simply turned away. This means that about two thirds of society are excluded from GEM.
"I have been in contact with a young man from Limerick who after being accepted onto a GEM course tried to get this bank loan and was told that he needed a guarantor to sign the loan. And that the guarantor had to earn at least 50,000 euro a year.
"The young man in question comes from a single parent household. His mother doesn’t earn more than 50,000 and was devastated to find out her son couldn’t go on and fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor.
"Studying medicine and becoming a doctor shouldn’t be the reserve of one class in society.
"It is unacceptable that we have a situation where we have a shortage of consultants and GPs and many young people being denied the opportunity to be trained to become doctors.
"Only about half of the 1,353 places in medicine each year go to students from Ireland. There has been essentially no increase in quota of 708 of Irish and other EU students here since Fine Gael came to power in 2011.
"In the same time period around 100 new places for more lucrative international students.
"This is why every year it gets more and more competitive to try and go on and study medicine.
"Other students go and first do another degree and then try to go back and study medicine through the graduate entry route.
"However, Irish students make up far less than half of the students accepted. Out of 91 GEM places offered by the Royal Colleges of Surgeons only 19 go to Irish students. In UCC only 33 out of 88 are Irish.
"Reform of how we are training doctors is essential. We urgently need to increase the number of place on medical courses with the aim of becoming self-reliant in term our training of healthcare professionals instead of relying on international recruitment.
"Irish students should be given the opportunity to become doctors regardless of their background."