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Public health specialists to enter ‘intensive’ negotiations with Department

IMO public health specialists will begin an intense round of negotiations with the Department of Health this week aimed at resolving the long-running dispute over their lack of consultant status and resourcing.

On Thursday, talks will get underway between both sides following a failure by Government to deliver on promised reforms for the profession.

Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI), Chair of the IMO public health committee Dr Ina Kelly said the talks would be intensive and would last for two weeks.

“They will be intensive negotiations and we will be hoping to see if there is room for negotiation. We hope the Department will be realistic and reasonable and stop putting off the inevitable,” she said, in relation to the urgent need to implement reforms.

“Specialists are worn out. We feel so undermined and disheartened. It is just so depressing.”

Public health specialists deferred planned strike action following an explosion in cases of Covid-19 late last year, but their many concerns about the future of the specialty remain.

Structural reforms and improved work models with consultant-led teams are urgently sought in a bid to improve public health services and the attractiveness of posts.

Ireland has a chronic shortage of public health specialists, a deficiency that has negatively impacted the country’s response to Covid-19.

According to Dr Kelly, Ireland will remain unable to recruit specialists from abroad because the role does not have consultant status, unlike in other countries.

For example, a position in public health has been advertised for more than two years but remains unfilled, according to the HSE website.

With cases from the third wave of the virus receding, “workloads are getting better and there is relief”, said Dr Kelly.

“But we are still busy and working long hours. There is never enough time to do all the work there.”

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