Income tax relief would help to keep Graduate Entry Medical Students here in Ireland – Burke

-   Senator Colm Burke

Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke has made a submission to the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, seeking the introduction of income tax relief for Graduate Entry Medical Students to help retain them here in Ireland.

“As a direct result of the implementation of the European Working Time Directive, it is going to be more difficult to retain junior doctors (NCHDs), who are so crucial to the smooth running of our health service. Each NCHD is now working less hours, resulting in a considerable reduction in their income.

“Much like entrepreneurs starting a new business, these young students are making an investment in order that they can provide an essential service. Business people are allowed to write off the interest on monies borrowed in setting up their business, against income received. The same rules should apply to students under the Graduate Entry Medicine programme who have to make such a significant monetary outlay at the start of their careers.

“Having studied the experience of students in the six medical schools in the Republic of Ireland, and through meeting a number of the students myself, I can see how introduction of income tax relief would make a huge difference to them and would make it far easier to encourage them to remain here in Ireland where they are needed. I have made a detailed submission to the Minister for Finance asking him to consider such a move.

“Over 60% of the Junior Doctors under the Graduate Entry Medicine programme are forced to take out loans of €60,000 – €100,000 to cover tuition and living costs. A number of the junior doctors I met recently had to pay between €14,000 and €16,000 per annum in college fees. It is important to note that the SUSI grant, available to most students, is not available to students on Graduate Entry Medicine programmes. The students I met with had to borrow these monies, not only for the fees, but also for their accommodation and general living expenses. Many of them now have substantial loans and are no longer able to afford to stay working in Ireland.

“Not only would the provision of tax relief help us to retain NCHD’s here in Ireland, but I also firmly believe that it would help to improve the socio-economic mix in future Graduate Entry Medicine classes, as it would make it less financially probative to embark on a career in medicine in this country.” 

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