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Minister Donnelly ‘delighted’ with public health deal

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has called the proposed deal to recognise public health specialists as consultants a “landmark” agreement.

Speaking in a pre-recorded speech broadcast at the IMO’s AGM 2021, the Minister acknowledged the reforms had been sought by public health doctors for decades.

“I was delighted to be able to reach agreement on a major reform of public health, with the creation, or maybe I should say recognition, of public health consultant posts,” according to the Minister.

“I fully agree with you that this was a landmark agreement, and appreciate your recommendation for acceptance of the agreement. Our public health teams have been leading on Covid from day one. They have worked under intense pressure all year and continue to do so, and it’s very welcome to be able to deliver this result.”

Minister Donnelly said the Government recognised that “major reform of the public health function is necessary and we committed to investing in, and resourcing of public health and the delivery of a strengthened and reformed consultant-delivered public health model”.

“The past year highlighted the critical national importance of a public health workforce with the capability to provide a robust and resilient health protection response,” he told the virtual conference.

“Together we can now implement a fundamentally reformed public health model at a national – and critically also at a regional level – all of which is aligned with international best practice.

“I thank you for your intensive engagement with my Department and now Ireland will emerge from this pandemic with the ambition and a plan to build a world class public health service.”

The agreement was reached after intensive negotiations between the public health committee of the IMO and the Department of Health and the HSE.  The committee has decided to put the proposals to a ballot of members with a recommendation that they be accepted.

Under the proposed agreement, the Department of Health and HSE has 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.  A further 30 will be filled between June 2022 and June 2023.

In his speech, the Minister also noted the increased investment in healthcare in Budget 2021.

The proposed agreement also includes details on new model for public health medicine, which reforms operating and governance structures.

“In Budget 2021 we committed to major investment in health – but not just more money – we know the results will be more staff, more beds, better services and importantly better outcomes for people,” he said.

“To deliver this I am determined to ensure Ireland is a great place for doctors to train, to work and to build rewarding careers. As you are aware I recently announced an increase of 120 medical intern posts plus additional postgraduate training places and fellowship posts for July this year.

“This is a positive step from a medical workforce planning perspective and for recruitment and retention within the Irish health service – a service that now offers more opportunities for training doctors, including those at senior levels.

“This builds on the commencement of the legislation last November that removed the requirement that doctors who qualified in a non-EEA country and who wished to commence postgraduate medical training in Ireland, must have completed an internship deemed the equivalent of that completed in Ireland.”

Minister Donnelly said over the next few months, the HSE is undertaking a formal review of the number of intern posts and postgraduate training places to ensure they are in line with future workforce planning requirements.

“I want to tell you today that I am committed to continuing to increase the number of training posts and at the same time to reducing our reliance on non-training posts. I want to ensure we provide the opportunities to many skilled doctors who currently occupy non-training posts with no career pathways. With the HSE, I am committed to addressing this.

“As Minister for Health I want doctors to stay in the Irish health service, and for those who have emigrated to return home, and I will work with you to achieve this.”

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