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The IMO is to commence talks with the HSE and Department of Health later this month with the aim of reaching agreement on longstanding public health issues by the end of November.
The development comes amid warnings that public health departments are now managing unsustainable workloads due to a rise in cases of Covid-19 and are unable to cope with demand.
In a recent update to members, the IMO welcomed that a memo on enabling legislation towards consultant status for public health doctors had been agreed by Government.
However, the correspondence to members cautioned that: “This legislation will allow the process for contract negotiations and pay discussions to proceed, it is important to note that the legislation in and off itself does not deal with the contractual issues.”
The IMO is seeking agreement on a workforce plan in relation to the number and breakdown of posts and arrangements for transitioning of specialists to consultant posts.
Contractual issues including pay under ”common consultant contract”, agreed provisions covering transition to a longer term model, employer, location, out-of hours arrangements and pay, and incremental credit arrangements also require agreement.
“If a negotiated settlement is possible this will be the subject of a ballot of IMO members affected by the proposals,” according to the IMO.
Around 150 staff are currently being recruited for public health, a move welcomed by the IMO, but it could be some months before staff are trained and in a position to take up employment.
“It should be noted that these posts are in the nursing, medical scientists and administration areas and while there will be some SMO recruitment the announcement is not in relation to public health specialists. The position of the IMO is that multidisciplinary teams are critical to the new model however such teams must be led by clinicians at consultant level,” read the update to members.
Chair of the IMO Public Health Committee, Dr Ina Kelly, said that the workload had increased dramatically and was now “ virtually unsustainable”.
“We came into this pandemic under strength. We were papering over the cracks before but now we are in danger of becoming a chasm.”