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The medical profession and the importance of solidarity

By Paul Mulholland - 07th Jun 2022


At the IMO AGM, which took place on 28 May, an emergency resolution was passed in which all doctors issued their support for the current struggle of NCHDs. 

The resolution stated: “This AGM, on behalf of all members, fully supports our NCHDs and their #standingup4NCHDs campaign and ballot for industrial action. The unsafe and illegal working hours, huge financial burdens and levels of burnout and stress faced by NCHDs will no longer be tolerated. We call on Government and the HSE to recognise and seriously address the challenges and inequities faced by our colleagues who are the consultants, GPs, public, and community health doctors of the future.” 

The motion was put forward by outgoing President of the IMO Dr Ina Kelly in her address to the annual meeting. Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI), Dr Kelly said all doctors across the craft groups were once NCHDs and faced many of the same issues in the past, such as dangerously long working hours, which have led to the current ballot. She said it was important that the IMO, as a whole, showed solidarity with NCHDs at this pivotal time for the group. 

Dr Kelly stressed it was solidarity and collaboration that got the country through the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Over the last year, we at the IMO have found, when we really work collaboratively with the health service, we can really solve problems,” according to Dr Kelly. 

“It is really important that we continue that collaborative relationship everywhere in the system by working together. Solidarity is terribly important. We saw how solidarity helped the people of Ireland during the pandemic. “It wasn’t just the doctors, or the nurses, or the healthcare professionals; it was the whole public of Ireland coming together. It is much easier to work beyond your capacity when everybody else is showing support and agreement with that.” 

However, at same time, Dr Kelly said that the Government and HSE should not expect medical professionals to work beyond their capacity as a matter of course. 

While she said the public health agreement, which finally conferred consultant status to specialists in public health, was to be greatly welcomed, it was only addressing an inequity that had lasted for far too long. Also, Dr Kelly said that even when implemented, more consultants in public health will be required for Ireland to be in line with international norms. 

“We know there are twice as many public health consultants in some countries that are comparable to us, such as Scotland and New Zealand,” Dr Kelly told MI

“We definitely need another 50 per cent more consultants in public health medicine to really help Ireland, to help all the other disciplines, to bring the overview and analysis that we can to help all the rest of our doctor colleagues provide the services that they need.” 

The Covid-19 pandemic showed how essential the public health doctors are, if proof was needed. Indeed, the entirety of the medical profession stepped up to the plate like never before. Now that the pressure of the pandemic has receded, at least for now, it is essential that issues such as the concerns of NCHDs with their working conditions, a new consultant contract, and the recruitment of public health doctors and senior medical officers, are addressed with the upmost priority. 

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