European Commission warns that Irish hospital consultants must have their salaries cut

A Romanian doctor who didn't even know how to take a pulse had never worked in a medical institution it emerged at a Medical Council hearing earlier this week, according to the Independent.

Dr Asia Ndaga was recruited as a senior house officer at Letterkenny Hospital in Donegal last July. The 31-year-old woman had studied medicine in Romania but had no experience in caring for patients. Her position carries a salary of €39,000 to €54,000 and her work must be supervised by a senior doctor as part of her contract.

The case highlighted the huge pressure on Irish hospitals to recruit junior doctors.

The Romanian Doctors' College confirmed that its register did not contain Dr Ndaga's name. Her medical education was largely based on book learning and university training rather than on practical training in hospitals.

The spokesman said she could not have "asked for a certificate of competence to work in an EU country because she was not a member of the Romanian Doctors' College."

Under freedom of movement legislation in the EU, Dr Ndaga is not obliged to undergo any practical test of skills as long as she provides evidence of her medical degree and a clean disciplinary record.

The Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, which organizes the training, confirmed that a doctor whose training is entirely based on theory rather than hands-on experience was eligible for a training post.

Professor Mary Horgan, associate dean for basic specialist training at the Royal College of Physicians, said that the college acts like the central applications office for junior doctors applying for training jobs here, but it has no direct role in deciding whether a particular candidate should be recruited.

Dr Ndaga was interviewed by a panel that included HSE human resources executives and training consultants.

The interview panel can turn down the junior doctor, but in Dr Ndaga's case, they gave her a ranking.

The next step in the process is to match the doctor with a hospital.

"The college is not involved in the direct recruitment of the doctor," said Prof Horgan.

"Once you are registered by the Irish Medical Council, you are eligible to apply for any training programme in the country.

"Obviously it is EU legislation and that's the way it works."

There are 1,600 doctors from other EU countries registered to work in Ireland, but none has had to undergo any tests to demonstrate their competency in treating patients.