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And so, the year ends much as it began, with talk of restrictions and questions about the rollout of the vaccination programme. December is usually a time to take stock, to assess the previous 12 months and look forward to the future. The suspended reality we have been living in since the beginning of 2020 makes such a task difficult.
Hospitals and GPs are under more pressure than ever, and waiting lists are becoming longer and longer. The pandemic was not the only crisis. The cataclysmic cyberattack on the HSE was an emergency within an emergency and is still having repercussions on patient care. High profile resignations from Sláintecare in September raised serious doubts about the future of the strategy. Talks on the new Sláintecare consultant contract have been difficult and the outcome is far from certain.
But there have been some welcome developments over the past year that should be noted. For instance, in May, public health specialists voted for a deal in which the Department of Health committed to 84 consultant posts and a new model for the delivery of public health. While this was long overdue, and progress since has been slower than many would like, the granting of consultant status to public health doctors was a landmark development.
Also, as we report in this issue, the formation of the Irish Society of Specialists in Public Health Medicine is another positive for a specialty that has been too long disregarded by health management. The benefit of this pandemic, hard as it has been to endure, is the unforgiving spotlight it has shone on the deficiencies of our health service.
This makes it more difficult for politicians to ignore and shows the public the consequence of failing to invest in infrastructure and staffing. The success of the vaccination programme demonstrates what can be achieved when there is sufficient political will. For the moment, the country remains in firefighting mode, as it has been for almost two years.
But when the crisis is over, it can only be hoped that the problems that have plagued the health service for years are tackled with a focus and determination that has too often been lacking. As this is the last issue of the Medical Independent for 2021, we wish all our readers a Happy Christmas and New Year and extend a heartfelt thanks to all healthcare workers for their enormous efforts throughout the pandemic.