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Doctors say it's 'difficult' to see how they can avoid going on strike over lack of resources

They were due to strike today.

Image: Sam Boal

PUBLIC HEALTH DOCTORS, who were due to strike today before it was eventually called off, have said that it is “difficult” to see how industrial action can be avoided. 

A statement released by Irish Medical Organisation said the rapid escalation in Covid cases caused them to defer their strike action but issues surrounding a lack of resources remain.  

Today was the scheduled first day of planned strike action in the campaign for the extension of consultant contracts and increased resources for public health. The three days of strike action were scheduled for today and on the 20th and 21 January.

A week ago, the IMO took the decision to postpone the strike action in light of the worsening Covid-19 crisis facing the country.

The matter is due to be reviewed at the end of January.

Dr Ina Kelly, Chair of the IMO’s Public Health Committee, said: “The Government’s handling of this dispute is shocking and shows an indifference to addressing the danger of such an understrength public health medicine service.”

“We now have an overwhelming mandate from our members for strike action but given the rapid escalation of Covid-19 cases, we have deferred that action for the moment. We are highly committed to protecting the health of our communities and much of our work every day now is to limit the size and impact of Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and hospitals.

“Unfortunately, our commitment is not matched by the Government who continue to ignore the need to have a consultant-led public health medicine workforce.”

Dr Kelly said the Government’s indifference “is hugely damaging to the morale of the public health doctors manning the front line in this fight against Covid-19″.

She added that it is “all the more galling given that we were in talks on these issues from January 2019 to January 2020 when much progress was made”.

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This dispute centres around the failure of Government to allow suitably qualified public health doctors to be employed as consultants as happens in other countries and as recommended by various Government appointed reviews of the public health service in Ireland.  

The IMO say that this failure is making it impossible to recruit suitably qualified doctors to work in public health in Ireland at a time when other countries are actively expanding their own public health workforces.

Dr Kelly added: “We have had enough of the meaningless words of thanks for our hard work. We demand commitments to the reforms that will safeguard our speciality and acknowledge our importance. Given the inaction by Government, it is difficult to see how strike action can be avoided.”

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