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84 public health consultant roles to be created under proposed Dept Health and IMO deal

It’s understood that the IMO will recommend the agreement to their members.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

AN AGREEMENT HAS been reached between the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to create 84 consultant grade posts in public health. 

It’s understood that the IMO will recommend the agreement to their members who will ballot on it in the coming weeks. 

The agreement has come after the IMO in January accepted an invitation from the Department of Health for talks to resolve an ongoing dispute over the extension of consultant status to public health. 

The dispute centres around claims from the IMO that the government has failed to allow suitably qualified public health doctors be employed as consultants. The IMO had said the situation makes it impossible to recruit suitably qualified doctors to work in public health in Ireland. 

In a ballot in November, 94% of IMO’s public health doctors voted in favour of strike action. 

Public health doctors were subsequently set to hold strike action on 14, 20 and 21 January. 

However, the IMO’s public health committee announced on 4 January that the three days of planned strike action were being deferred in the midst of the “rapid and escalating incidence of Covid-19 in Ireland”. 

  • SYSTEM OVERLOAD: The public health system was creaking before the pandemic – has Covid-19 broken it? Read more here on how to support a major Noteworthy project to investigate this issue.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly this evening confirmed that the implementation of the new public health model will include the establishment of the grade of consultant in public health medicine. 

Under the proposed agreement with the IMO, the Department of Health and HSE have agreed to create 84 consultant grade posts in public health. There are currently no such roles in Ireland.

34 of these roles are to be filled over the coming 12 months. A further 30 are to be filled between June 2022 and June 2023 and the final 20 posts will be filled between June 2023 and December of that year. 

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The Department of Health said the new model “radically changes” the governance and operation structure within public health, introducing a more fit-for-purpose national and regional structure across each of the pillars of public health. 

“The past year has highlighted the critical national importance of a public health workforce with the capability to provide a robust and resilient health protection response,” Donnelly said. 

“I welcome that an agreement has been reached with the Irish Medical Organisation that will support the implementation of a fundamentally reformed public health model at a national and regional level which is aligned with international best practice,” he said. 

Incoming chairperson of the IMO’s public health committee Dr Anne Dee said this is a “landmark agreement which has the potential to transform public health in this country”. 

“We will be recommending to our members that they accept this agreement.”

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