IMO hits out at State ‘hypocrisy’

IMO accuses State of lip service after consultant contract talks collapse

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has hit out at the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health for alleged “hypocrisy”, following breakdown of the latest talks on consultant status for public health doctors.

The IMO accusation of lip service was aimed at the praise “for the expertise of public health specialists, on the one hand, even while denying them consultant status on the other.”

Despite their expertise, public health specialists, who were on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19, worked on ‘Specialist Contracts’.

There were 60 public health specialists in this position currently, and they were not allowed to be employed on “consultant contracts”, charged the IMO, adding that this impacted on their pay and conditions.

At yesterday’s meeting (Wednesday, September 9) the IMO was told that the Department of Expenditure and Reform was effectively blocking the development, by withholding approval for the revised terms of the new consultant contract and stalling progress on the required legislative changes.

Dr Ina Kelly, Chair of the Public Health Committee of the IMO, said: “Politicians have been falling over themselves to praise the work of public health specialists for the past six months, but when it comes to recognising their status by granting them long-promised consultant contracts, they refuse.

“This is not only unfair on the hardworking specialists who are battling Covid-19 at the moment, it will directly discourage future doctors from considering a career in Public Health Medicine. Even as we speak our public health specialists are being actively recruited as consultants in other jurisdictions.”

Dr Kelly underlined that the Government was able to move with speed to facilitate required legislation to raise the salaries for three “super-junior” ministers in the new Government but could not show the same resourcefulness when it came to helping frontline workers.

The argument for public health specialists to be awarded consultant posts had long been accepted in many Government-commissioned reports including recent reports from Crowe Howarth and the Scally report on Cervical Check, yet little or no progress has been made.

The IMO Public Health Committee is to meet over the coming days to consider a formal response to the Government.

However, Dr Kelly warned: “Our colleagues have stepped up to the plate, taken on duties that are not covered by contract, worked continuously without proper time off to manage outbreaks, and I know they will be completely devastated by the inaction of the Government on this matter. Ireland needs a consultant-led public health system and it needs it now.”

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