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Public health doctors accept invitation for talks with Department of Health over ongoing dispute

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

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

THE IRISH MEDICAL Organisation (IMO) has 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 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 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”. 

The decision to defer the strikes is due to be reviewed at the end of the month. 

In a statement this evening, the IMO’s public health committee confirmed that it has accepted an invitation from the Department of Health for talks to resolve the ongoing dispute. 

“We welcome this invitation to talks but what we really need now is action,” the IMO’s public health committee chairperson Dr Ina Kelly said. 

“This issue has been discussed enough. We need resolution and the resolution must be the implementation of the repeated recommendations of various government appointed committees who all agree that consultant status must be extended to public health as is the case internationally,” Dr Kelly said. 

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

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“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.”

The Department of Health has been contacted for comment. 

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