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Recommendations awaited from public health doctor staffing report

The Crowe Horwath report was commissioned following a recommendation in the 2014 MacCraith medical training and staffing report, which highlighted the low levels of doctors in the specialty (60 in February 2017) and significant recruitment and retention problems. The new review, which was due to be finalised last June, examines the attractiveness of public health medicine and the curriculum and content of the specialist training scheme.

Outgoing IMO President and member of the IMO Public Health and Community Health Doctors Committee Dr Ann Hogan told the Medical Independent (MI) that the report’s recommendations have yet to be shared.

A motion at the Committee’s national meeting at the IMO AGM calling on the Department and HSE to publish the report and to engage with stakeholders on its implementation without delay was carried unanimously, as was a motion calling for all specialists in public health medicine to be granted consultant status.

Dr Hogan pointed out that training for public health doctors is extensive, the role of public health medicine is increasing, and they are now providing an out-of-hours on-call service, yet “they are still not on anything like a consultant’s contract”.

In relation to community health doctors, Dr Hogan said there had been some recent progress in Munster regarding a number of area medical officers (AMOs), who have been upgraded to senior medical officer (SMO) level or put on a pathway to achieve this. However, some AMOs are still waiting for this to happen, despite years of promises and growing demands on community vaccination services.

 “If we have posts left vacant for months on end, the services are going to suffer… at the moment, we have an outbreak of measles in Limerick. The role of the community health department involves giving the MMR vaccine in primary schools and if we don’t achieve the uptake we need, we are going to have more and more outbreaks like that.”

Dr Hogan also spoke at the AGM on the role of vaccination, highlighting the challenges posed by the Internet in facilitating the spread of anti-vaccine propaganda and ‘fake news’, and the increasing phenomenon of anti-expert bias.

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