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Importance of public health doctors highlighted during Covid-19

The spread of Covid-19 has “highlighted the importance of public health doctors” to the health system, Prof Joe Barry, Professor of Public Health Medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, has told this newspaper.

The issue around consultant status for public health doctors has been to the fore in recent weeks. The IMO has raised the issue with the Government regarding public health physicians being accorded the same recognition as clinical colleagues.

On this, Prof Barry noted that the current health challenge posed by the Covid-19  outbreak has done much to shine a light on the work of public health doctors and their importance to the health system.

“The Covid-19 issue has highlighted the importance of public health doctors. The CMO [Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan]  is a graduate of our training scheme in public health medicine at the RCPI and he and his public health medicine colleagues in the Department of Health and the HSE have been to the fore in the containment phase,”  said Prof Barry, who is also a former President of the IMO.

“Another high profile public health doctor is Dr Gabriel Scally who led the investigation into the cervical screening problem last year.

“What distinguishes public health doctors from hospital consultants is that the bigger picture is examined as public health medics are not focused exclusively on one organ system but have a comprehensive view of the social determinants of health in the total population.”

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