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The HSE has said public health medicine vacancies will be filled shortly, as the health service responds to the Covid-19 epidemic, the Medical Independent (MI) can report.
As previously reported by MI, the IMO recently wrote to the HSE regarding the vacancies, noting the additional pressure on services due to the novel coronavirus.
In response to the IMO’s request for an update, the HSE National Director for Human Resources Ms Anne Marie Hoey confirmed recruitment measures were “underway that will alleviate some of the burden for public health specialists and senior medical officers over the coming weeks and months”.
In a letter to the IMO, dated 2 March, Ms Hoey said there were rolling recruitment competitions for specialists in public health medicine and senior medical officer positions.
“Specifically, there are 5.4 WTE [whole time equivalent] specialists in public health and 4.6 WTE senior medical officer vacancies, which the HSE plans to fill over the coming weeks and months,” according to the letter seen by MI.
A number of specialists in public health medicine are currently being shortlisted and are due to be interviewed in April.
“Additionally, there are six specialist registrars in the final of the four-year public health medicine training programme who are expected to qualify over the coming months,” according to Ms Hoey.
“We expected that these SpRs will apply for the rolling specialist in public health recruitment campaign as they approach qualification.”
In relation to the senior medical officer posts, applications are also at the shortlisting stage, with interviews expected in April.
The HSE anticipates that all of the current vacancies will be filled through this process.
“I am confident that these new recruits will help to support the workload with our public health physicians,” wrote Ms Hoey.
The IMO has welcomed the move to fill existing public health medicine vacancies.
Mr Val Moran, IMO Director of Industrial Relations, said the Crowe Horwath process must be implemented and specialists in public health medicine granted consultant status if public health medicine capacity is to be strengthened.
“The international Covid-19 outbreak has unfortunately brought into stark relief just how important public health medicine is to the health of our nation and the trojan work that is done by doctors in this specialty often goes unseen,” Mr Moran told MI.
Mr Moran said the Scally report noted that public health medicine had not been accorded due recognition as a specialty.
According to the report: “The time has surely come where public health physicians are accorded the same recognition as clinical colleagues and their skills deployed at the core of all public health programmes.”
“In this regard the work of both the Department of Health and the HSE under the Chief Clinical Officer’s department is to be welcomed with regard to their efforts in advancing the Crowe Horwath process,” Mr Moran said.
“Clearly real and meaningful reform, as well as increases in capacity, cannot take place until such time as specialists in public health medicine are granted consultant status and contracts in line with other consultants working in the health service.”