A senior public health doctor has accused the Government of leaving them with no choice but to vote for industrial action.
Doctors specialising in public health voted overwhelmingly on Friday to take industrial action, up to and including strike action.
The doctors, who are represented by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), have been calling for almost two decades for public health specialists to be provided with consultant-level contracts, and for public health to become a consultant-led service.
Speaking to The, public health specialist Dr Ina Kelly said the government has left doctors in the field with no choice but to vote for industrial action.
Dr Kelly works in public health medicine in HSE Midlands and is a former lecturer in public health at University College Cork and current chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s (IMO) Public Health and Community Health.
“We have received no proposals of any kind from the Department of Health, so we will be considering industrial action.
“There have been a lot of calls from our members for industrial action.
“It appears that the government has left us with no option except industrial action despite previous plans to resolve these issues by July 2020," she added.
Dr Kelly explained that public health workers were in the process of trying to reform the sector in Ireland towards the end of last year, in a bid to provide better resourced public health teams across the country.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic arrived and this reform took a back seat in government priorities, she explained, warning that the failure to properly resource public health teams could lead to difficulties in curbing Covid-19 outbreaks.
“The plan was to introduce larger, consultant-led public health teams in July this year but that has not happened,” explained Dr Kelly.
“We’re trying to negotiate a consultant contract with the Department of Health so we can establish public health teams that are fully resourced.
“We need data analysts, surveillance scientists, nurses, and doctors,” she added.
“Public health staff across the country have really stepped up to the challenge here but in reality, we need more staff.”
Dr Kelly explained that the lack of a consultant contract for public health specialists is making it more difficult to retain people in the area.
She also said that it makes training and recruitment in the field of public health very difficult.