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Proposals to offer full consultant status to occupational health physicians are currently being considered by the Department of Health (DoH), although there is no indication when a final decision will be made on the matter, the Medical Independent (MI) can report. The IMO told this newspaper that it has been “pushing the HSE to push the Department” on consultant status for occupational health physicians.
A Department spokesperson confirmed to MI that alongside the HSE, it is “considering the appropriate remuneration level for the role of occupational health physician. It is not possible at this time to indicate when a final decision might be made”.
Mr Anthony Owens, IMO Director of Industrial Relations, Consultants and NCHDs, told MI: “This is something which has been percolating away in the background for a long time. Occupational health physicians are consultants in occupational medicine.
“They are trained to consultant standards, but don’t necessarily have consultant contracts. So they perform consultant duties without the contract.
“So we have been pushing both the HSE and DoH to kind of regularise the situation, and to offer them the correct contract, which we would maintain are the consultant contracts.”
Mr Owens emphasised that occupational health physicians are trained to consultant level and provide this standard of service to the population.
“But also, there is a requirement on the HSE to recruit and maintain more of these doctors, and our position would be by offering them comparable terms and conditions to their consultant colleagues, this could be done.”
Mr Owens said that the issue had been “examined by a management consultancy firm in 2008 and their recommendation ultimately pointed in the direction of a proper consultant contract for these doctors”. He admitted, however, that the post-election uncertainty may delay the resolution of the issue.