I can advise the Deputy that policy responsibility relating to locum doctors is primarily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE). The role of the Immigration Service of my Department is to provide immigration mechanisms by which non-EEA medical personnel may be recruited to fill temporary vacancies in the health sector as and when required. I am advised that in recent months the Immigration Service has consulted closely with the HSE to determine if the terms of the Scheme require any amendments. The Immigration Service remains committed to ongoing stakeholder engagement to ensure the smooth operating of the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) with regards to locum GP’s.
Under current arrangements, which have been in place since 2015, doctors undertaking locum work in the Primary Care (GP) sector may be granted a ‘block’ 90-day permission for the duration of their 90-day contract. Exit from and re-entry into the State is not permitted during this 90-day period, except in exceptional circumstances. The terms of the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) also provide that at least one month must elapse from the expiry date of the 90 day permission before a new application may be made. The rationale for this approach, which applies to all such permissions, is rooted in the principle that an atypical permission is not a substitute for the replacement of full time labour (either sourced within Ireland or the EU or through the Non EEA Work Permit regime). Thus a person granted such permission cannot automatically roll over their atypical permission. These conditions have applied to permissions granted under the Scheme since its inception.
Atypical immigration permissions are specifically designed to cover such short term employments in the State and there are alternative options available for longer term employment through the work permit regime of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.