Dáil Éireann - Volume 576 - 04 December, 2003
Written Answers. - Defence Forces Strength.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe Mr. J. O'Keeffe
28. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence his views on the adequacy of numbers and resources in the Army medical corps in view of overseas commitments; and his plans to expand same. [29359/03]
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
36. Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Defence the number of medical doctors serving as officers in the Defence Forces; the way in which this compares to the establishment level; the steps being taken to fill outstanding vacancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29442/03]
Mr. M. Smith Mr. M. Smith
Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith):I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 36 together.
In common with other public sector health service providers, the medical corps encounters difficulty in the recruitment and retention of medical personnel. The Department of Defence, in consultation with the director of the medical corps, is endeavouring to seek ways to recruit additional medical personnel, notwithstanding these difficulties. In the context of overseas commitments, the military authorities were recently successful in recruiting a medical officer to serve with the Defence Forces contingent in Liberia.
Over the past number of years however, the medical corps has had difficulty in attracting more than one or two medical officers per year into the service. Part of the difficulty in attracting applicants may be due to the unique nature of military medical officer appointments. Service in the medical corps is not a professional training employment similar to non-consultant hospital doctor appointments or vocational training schemes in general practice.
Where no military medical or dental officer is available, suitable local arrangements are made with civilian medical and dental practitioners to ensure that the appropriate level of professional care is available to members of the Defence Forces.
The current organisational strength of the medical corps, as advised by the military authorities, is as follows:
Officer strength at 32 comprises: 20 medical officers, four dentists, five pharmacists and three line officers.
The reorganisation of the medical corps, which was effected as part of the Defence Forces review implementation plan in November 1998, was embraced as an opportunity to redirect the focus of military medical care in the Defence Forces from a predominantly hospital based service to one in which primary, occupational and field support would continue to be further developed.
At present, in addition to St. Bricin's Military Hospital, Dublin, three military medical facilities – MMF – are located at the headquarters of each of the field medical companies in Cork and Athlone and at the medical detachment supply and services unit in the Curragh. They have associated infirmaries for the care of living-in personnel, largely recruits and other training course students, who may become injured or ill. There are appointments for a physician at each MMF. There are currently x-ray, pharmacy and screening audiometry facilities at each MMF and physiotherapy facilities at MMF Cork and Curragh.
Nurses of the Army nursing service have taken up new appointments as members of occupational care teams in the Air Corps and Naval Service and it is planned that more nurses will be offered similar appointments in the larger barracks throughout the country.
The range of services provided by the medical corps is as follows: a military occupational medical service, a primary medical care service, a secondary medical care service, a preventive medical service, provision of medicines and dressings, dental services, a field medical service, training, maintenance of medical records and medicolegal services.
Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 18.
Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 27.
Dáil Éireann 576 Written Answers. Defence Forces Strength.