Public Health Doctors defer industrial action due to COVID crisis
Department of Health given 2 months to resolve issues
Public Health Specialists from the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) have agreed to delay a decision on strike action for two months given the ongoing public health crisis linked to Covid 19. Public Health doctors are the frontline defence in the fight against COVID 19. They deal with the management of the disease, outbreaks, clusters and contact tracing.
Public Health Specialists who are members of the IMO met last night to consider the recent refusal of the Government to set out a definitive timeline for the introduction of Consultant status for public health specialists. Various independent reports (including the Crowe Horwath Report and Professor Gabriel Scally report) have recommended this move. The Department accepted the recommendations of these reports in January 2019 and it was agreed that implementation would take place in July 2020 yet little or no substantive progress has been made.
Public Health Specialists decided that for ethical reasons in the context of the Covid crisis, they would not proceed to industrial action at this time and mandated the IMO to engage with the Department for a time limited period of two months to see if the matter can be resolved. It was the unanimous view of the members that unless progress is made on this critical issue the membership will be balloted for industrial action.
Speaking today the Chairperson of the Public Health Committee, Dr. Ina Kelly said: “our members are frustrated and angry at the continued refusal of the Department of Health to grant us Consultant status even as the same Department relies on us to lead the fight against Covid 19. Public health medicine is critical to the ongoing management of the nation’s health and we have stepped up to the plate during this crisis taking on additional duties, additional hours even though our workforce was seriously understaffed even before Covid. If the Government are really serious about a consultant led public health system we must see the same level of commitment from them. Hand clapping and thanks are not the response we need.”
Committee member, Dr. Anne Dee said that Public Health doctors should not be taken for granted: “Since the start of this year, our members have been at the forefront of the battle against Covid 19. They are working unsustainable hours in hugely stressful conditions. They are exhausted. And the refusal of the Department of Health to move on this issue feels like a slap in the face. The Government has taken us for granted for too long. They can not continue to take us for granted through the coming months.”