March 18, 2020 / 7:33 PM / 11 days ago

Ireland's call for retired medics to return to work gets huge response

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s health service was inundated by offers from former healthcare professionals prepared to return to frontline service to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, a day after the government made its call to arms.

Some 24,000 people responded to a call for retired doctors, nurses, therapists and university students with sufficient skills to register with the health service so they can be pressed into service as they are needed in the weeks ahead.

Around 65,000 nurses and midwives are practicing in Ireland with 15,000 doctors registered to work, 7,000 of whom are currently doing so, according to their registering boards.

On Monday, Health Minister Simon Harris said there would be no financial limits to the recruitment program and no constraint on the numbers to be hired, telling prospective candidates: “Your country needs you.”

“The huge response to this call is a testament to the solidarity of Irish people and we wish to thank those who have put themselves forward to work with us during these unprecedented circumstances,” Health Service Executive National Director of Human Resources Anne Marie Hoey said in a statement.

The recruitment effort is drawing doctors and nurses back to the country from Canada and Australia, where many young Irish medical professionals find work after they complete their training in Ireland.

On Tuesday, Anthony O’Connor, a doctor and member of the Irish Medical Organization’s consultant committee, told national broadcaster RTE he knew of an Irish doctor in Perth, along with 24 colleagues, intending to return to “serve their country”.

Other recruits include Roisin Doherty, the wife of the Sinn Fein party’s finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty, who is returning to work as a nurse. Simon Mills, a doctor-turned-barrister, took to Twitter on Wednesday to announce a return to his old profession.

Ireland has 292 confirmed cases of coronavirus but Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday the government expects that to rise to at least 15,000 by the end of the month. The total number of confirmed cases in British-ruled Northern Ireland is 68.

Reporting by Graham Fahy; editing by Nick Macfie

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