The deadline to conclude phase two of the public health consultant recruitment agreement has been missed, the Medical Independent (MI) has learned.
However, the process of recruitment is still “well un- derway”, according to a HSE spokesperson.
In 2021, the Department of Health committed to es- tablishing 84 consultant posts, which were to be recruit- ed over three phases under an agreement with the IMO. A total of 34 posts were to be filled by the end of last year; a further 30 posts were expected to be recruited by June 2023 (phase two); and an additional 20 by December 2023 (phase three).
As of 18 August, phase one of the process was com- pleted, with 34 posts filled including the permanent appointment of the national director of public health.
The HSE spokesperson described phase two of the process as “well underway”. However, under the terms of the 2021 agreement, this phase was meant to be completed by the end of June.
By 18 August, 10 consultants in public health med- icine had been “onboarded”; nine candidates were at pre-employment and contracting stage; and seven were at interview stage, according to the HSE.
In addition, one post was currently being advertised “and our final one WTE [whole-time equivalent] post will be advertised imminently”, said the spokesperson. Two WTE posts were not filled in the first round and were being re-advertised, they added.
“Public health continues to make every effort to meet the very ambitious targets for completion of consult- ant recruitment, which have been stretched due to the introduction of the Sláintecare contract (public-only consultant contract 2023), in conjunction with the re- quirement for a phased approach to onboarding in an effort to protect frontline health protection services,” the HSE spokesperson told MI.
Dr Anne Dee, Chair of the IMO public health com- mittee, told this newspaper: “Recruitment is continu- ing apace, albeit with a few delays here and there.”
The process had not been “easy”, according to Dr Dee, who noted that the application process was “in itself stressful, as indeed is the amount of change taking place”.
However, she added “hopefully” the process will be completed early in 2024 and “people can begin to really contribute to meaningful reform” in public health medicine.
“It has been a long and difficult road for all con- cerned, but the end is in sight,” said Dr Dee.
As reported by MI in June, the third phase of the recruitment drive for public health consultants has been sanctioned by the Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform.