What is Ireland doing to attract more foreign health professionals?

Expat news
  • health professionals
Published on 2022-10-05 at 10:00 by Ameerah Arjanee
The Health Service Executive (HSE) of Ireland, the country's public healthcare system, has announced that it will now offer relocation packages worth over €4,000 to foreign health professionals who want to move to the country. This is the latest in a series of measures to solve the labor shortage in Irish public healthcare.

No initial relocation costs for both EU and non-EU healthcare professionals

The HSE's grant ensures that healthcare professionals from within the European Union and beyond will not have to bear the cost of relocation. Relocation costs include visas, language tests like the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), medical exams, the flight into Ireland, the first month of accommodation (including a deposit of 1-3 months), and registration fees for regulatory bodies like the Medical Council. 

The HSE's package now offers €250 for a flight from an EU country and €800 from a non-EU country. As for accommodation, €3,910 will be granted to each candidate, irrespective of where they're flying from, for their first month of rent. Ireland notoriously has one of the most expensive housing markets in Europe. According to a Eurostat report, housing there is 88.5% higher than the European average, especially in the capital of Dublin, where an apartment costs between €900 and €2200 a month. In a smaller city like Galway, it will cost around €1500, while on the cheaper end, in the countryside or towns like Donegal, it will cost around €700. The HSE's subsidy is high enough to cover one or more months of rent in these places.

Other expenses like language tests and registration fees will be examined on a case-by-case basis for the person to be eligible for top-up payments. As reported in The Independent, an HSE spokesperson said that “exact cost is dependent on where the candidate is relocating from, and the specialty of the post.”

This news is particularly great for expats from the developing world, who often have to face exorbitant relocation costs because the currency in their home country is worth much less than the euro. Indeed, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has reported that an increasing number of doctors in the country come from African and Asian countries like Nigeria, Sudan and Pakistan. €2000 for one month of rent, for example, is worth nearly half a million Pakistani rupees! Salary websites report that most doctors in Pakistan make around Rs 30,000-70,000 per month. Before they start earning euros in Ireland, these doctors need to have savings equivalent to a year of full-time work just to afford one month of rent! This can deter highly-qualified Pakistani doctors from choosing Ireland, especially if they don't already have a job offer and a relocation stipend as part of their contract. Irish authorities are simplifying things by making the relocation subsidy a national issue.

It should be clarified that Ireland is not looking for only doctors (generalists or specialists). The country is also in dire need of other health professionals like nurses, midwives, pharmacists, psychologists, radiographers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, orthoptists, language and speech therapists, and medical scientists. You can consult the Critical Skills Occupation List on the website of the Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for more details about these in-demand jobs.

What else is Ireland doing to attract health professionals?

The relocation package is not the only benefit that Ireland is currently extending to healthcare professionals. Notably, since late September, doctors from outside the European Union and EEA (European Economic Area) who have been in Ireland under a General Employment Permit for at least 21 months can now apply to work without any new permit.

Irish authorities have also launched a Critical Skills Employment Permit for jobs experiencing a labor shortage, which are listed on the aforementioned Critical Skills Occupation List. While this list isn't exclusively for the health sector, it does include many healthcare jobs. The advantages of this new permit/visa are many: it's exempted from the Labour Markets Needs Test (which checks if positions can't find qualified Irish candidates before being open to foreigners), it provides rapid family reunification (and your family members can also work in Ireland!), it gives expats the permission to start working without any job offer after 2 years (the permit's duration). Now, in addition, expats with a Critical Skills Employment Permit will also receive a relocation grant.

Ireland is experiencing labor shortages across the entire economy, but that's especially pronounced in healthcare. After the pandemic, nearly all countries need a larger workforce in public health services, and Ireland is no exception. Secondly, Ireland has a rapidly aging population that will come to rely more on the HSE. And thirdly, many young Irish graduates, including medical professionals, are immigrating to other countries like Australia and the UK. The gap they leave behind needs to be filled by high-skilled immigrants. Ireland's public hospitals, says the Economic and Social Research Institute, need to hire 15,000 more workers by 2035 to keep functioning well!

The HSE is aware, however, that it can't count on only immigration but needs to also give opportunities to locals. That's why it's trying to increase the number of available seats in healthcare-related courses in Irish colleges/universities by 50% over the next 3 years. Over the past 3 years, the country has been able to train over 300 additional nurses and midwives locally to meet labor demands. The National Youth Council of Ireland has also recommended other measures to discourage these citizens from leaving the country after their training. These recommendations include extending the discounted Youth Travel Card to adults in their 20s and increasing the allowance granted to unemployed jobseekers.

The global competition for recruiting healthcare professionals is fierce at the moment, with similar demands in the public health system of other developed countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Ireland seems determined to create attractive new immigration laws and conditions in order to encourage high-skilled health professionals from all over the world to choose their country.