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Public health doctors have ‘appetite’ for reform – HSE Chief Clinical Officer

The Chair of the HSE group charged with implementing the Crowe Horwath report on public health medicine has questioned the cost of the National Children’s Hospital compared with the “modest levels of investments” required to improve public health interventions for children.

Speaking at a meeting of public and community health medicine doctors at the IMO AGM, HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said: “One of the frustrations with the children’s hospital is when you look at the amount of money invested on the capital development of a hospital, again, nobody has raised the idea of the relative massive investment in a ‘piece of hardware’ hospital, as opposed to the relatively modest investments we would need to address the [health] inequities in children.”

Dr Henry also told the meeting that there was unlikely to be a better opportunity to improve public health medicine in Ireland for some time.

Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI), Dr Henry said he was impressed with the engagement in the process by public health specialists.

“The fact is, there is an appetite for this. Much of the drive for this came from the public health workforce themselves. I met them this morning in a really, really energetic meeting, a really positive meeting. These are people that are highly trained, highly specialised and have experienced a degree of frustration in their professional lives. The expertise and knowledge they have, where it is applied, can lead to real improvement in the way we deliver healthcare services, real transformation in the way our health service is delivered.”

The work of the implementation group is focused across six different streams: Health protection activities; population health profiling and health improvement functions; population health and wellbeing; quality improvement, audit, clinical governance and patient safety; the National Cancer Control Programme and national screening services; and workforce planning.

Dr Henry said the group aimed to have an implementation plan completed by the final quarter of 2019 and the implementation phase would begin next year.

Mr Val Moran, IMO Director of Industrial Relations, General Practice, Public and Community Health, told MI the Organisation will engage again with the Department of Health on the industrial relations side of the report’s implementation – namely, that public health specialists be granted consultant status – once the new structures for public health delivery are finalised.

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