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Public health doctors defer three days of strike action planned for this month

The Irish Medical Organisation has said the decision was taken in light of the “rapid and escalating incidence of Covid-19 in Ireland”.

THREE DAYS OF planned strike action from public health doctors have been deferred in the midst of the “rapid and escalating incidence of Covid-19 in Ireland”, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said. 

The IMO’s public health committee has said the strikes on 14, 20 and 21 January will no longer take place, with the situation to be reviewed at the end of the month.

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 has 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 public health doctors voted in favour of strike action. 

The decision to defer strike action comes amid an alarming spike in Covid-19 numbers in Ireland in recent weeks. 

Almost 5,000 new cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday, and it has been warned that health services could be overwhelmed as hospitalisations also continue to rise significantly. 

Dr Ina Kelly, chair of the IMO public health committee, said: “For all the talk from the government on the importance of supporting public health we are more than disappointed, frustrated and angry that even now our Public Health Departments are wholly under resourced and government has still not even come to us with proposals to reform the system so that we can have a consultant led public health service.

“It is nothing short of disgraceful that we are almost a year into this pandemic and have had no meaningful engagement with government.

Our decision to defer action is based purely on ethical considerations and our commitment to do the right thing at a time of grave crisis.  This government has failed to do the right thing. Our careers are dedicated to public health and to even contemplate industrial action has been an extremely difficult decision yet this government has forced us to do just that.

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When the strike action was announced in November, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he and his department were “disappointed” with this decision.

“The Minister and the Department hope that issue of consultant status can be resolved through engagement,” the statement said.

“The creation of consultant level roles in Public Health Medicine is a priority for the Minister as public health specialists have waited for many years for consultant status.”

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Sean Murray

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