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IMO AGM 2021- ‘Emotional moment’ for public health specialty

IMO AGM 2021, Virtual Conference, 17 April

Public health specialists have described the agreement on a new model for public health as an “emotional moment” for the specialty. According to Specialist in Public Health Medicine Dr Marie Casey, the proposed contract change and reform represent the most significant development in the specialty since its inception. The IMO will ballot members on the agreement with a recommendation that the proposals are accepted.

“It was an emotional moment for us after years of selfless advocacy by my colleagues, to finally achieve equality. It was even more meaningful given our experiences in the past year, where we have worked even more closely together and helped each other through a myriad of challenges. We can see a positive future for the specialty and for those we train,” Dr Casey told the Medical Independent (MI).

“It sends a clear message that prevention is recognised as key to the health of the nation. We are enthusiastic about this opportunity for positive change.” Chair of the IMO public health committee Dr Anne Dee told MI they were “absolutely delighted” that an agreement had finally been reached with the Department of Health on progressing the specialty.

“It is a new beginning for public health medicine in Ireland where we are finally recognised as being of equal value to the health service as our colleagues in hospitals and other specialties,” she said.

“On a personal level it is quite emotional. I have worked for many years… to drive this agenda forward. It is wonderful to see a positive outcome from what has been a long and difficult journey.”

She urged members to vote in favour of the deal, which promises 84 public health consultant positions. Existing specialists must go through an interview process to attain a consultant role. Dr Dee warned that if the deal is accepted a 30-month reform process awaits, during which time colleagues must work together to ensure the transition is smooth and that the deal is “fully implemented”.

Specialist in Public Health Medicine Dr Regina Kiernan, who recalled the first public health strike back in the early 2000s, said the deal had been “hard fought”. She said that “it has been a very emotional experience”. Under the proposed deal, the Department and HSE have agreed to create 84 consultant grade posts in public health (from zero currently). Some 34 of these will be filled over the coming 12 months and 50 between June 2022 and December 2023.

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