Public health doctors expected to back ballot for strike action

Specialists who play key role in dealing with pandemic are seeking consultant contracts

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he is committed to the establishment of a consultant-led public health model.  Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he is committed to the establishment of a consultant-led public health model. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Public health specialists, who are playing a key role in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, are expected to back strike action in a ballot which will be finalised later on Friday.

The doctors, who are represented by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), have been campaigning for some time for public health to become a consultant-led service and for public health specialists to be awarded consultant contracts “to reflect their expertise and specialist skills”.

Public health specialists earn about € 113,000. Hospital consultants with a type-A contract - which permits them to treat only public patients - have a pay scale that ranges from €141,026 to €195,653.

The doctors commenced a ballot for industrial action up to and including strike action earlier this month and the outcome will be announced on Friday evening. It is expected that the doctors will back industrial action in the ballot.

If the doctors do vote in favour of industrial action the are expected to decide the details at a meeting likely to take place next Monday.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he is committed to the establishment of a consultant-led public health model.

However, it is understood that the public health doctors are concerned Government proposals may not see all existing public health specialists automatically upgraded to consultant positions but rather they would have to compete for posts as they came on stream.

They are also angry at what they perceive to be delays on the part of the Government in introducing the new public health model.

Talks on a new public health model took place between the Department of Health and the IMO in 2019 on foot of a report by external consultants Crowe Howarth.

In September 2020 the Cabinet approved the introduction of legislation which would allow the Government to increase pay for certain groups, which it saw as a key requirement to deal with the public health specialists issue.

However, the doctors maintain they still have not received any specific proposals from the Department of Health and the enabling legislation on pay announced by the Government in September has not yet been enacted by the Oireachtas.

This legislation is expected to be brought before the Oireachtas by the Department of Public Expenditure in December.

It is understood that the Department of Health has submitted proposals to the Department of Public Expenditure on consultant posts in public health which it has drawn up in consultation with the HSE.