All of the country’s public health doctors are to get a pay rise and consultant status.
This is according to a deal the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has struck as part of the government’s implementation of its new consultant-led "Public Health Model" for Ireland It will be progressed on a phased basis.
The Public Health Committee of IMO will now ballot members on a proposed agreement to resolve the 20-year dispute over recognition for Specialists in Public Health Medicine (SPHMs) with a “recommendation to accept”.
The agreement will see the HSE create 84 consultant posts in Public Health for the first time ever.
Dr Anne Dee, who was involved in the negotiations and is the incoming chair of the public health committee of the IMO, said: “This is a landmark agreement which has the potential to transform public health in this country.”
Under the proposed agreement, 34 of the 84 consultant grade posts in Public Health will be filled over the coming 12 months.
A further 30 will be filled between June 2022 and June 2023.
The final 20 posts will be filled between June 2023 and December of that year.
Members will be given the opportunity to vote on whether or not to accept the deal.
A previous deal agreed with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly’s predecessor Simon Harris fell apart last summer and led to a worsening of relations between the IMO and the Department of Health.
And SPHMs, who have already voiced concerns about being overworked throughout the pandemic, have been frustrated since.
Tonight, Mr Donnelly said: “This is a great result for Ireland and for our public healthcare system.
“Public health doctors have been fighting for equal recognition for over 20 years.
“They deserve it and I’m delighted to be able to deliver it.
“It’s an essential part of our plans to radically improve Ireland’s public health capacity.
“Last year I sanctioned a doubling of the public health workforce and a lot of progress has been made already.
“We’re also working on other important elements of the public health infrastructure including modern IT systems.”
He added: “I’d particularly like to acknowledge and give thanks to our public health teams across Ireland for their tireless efforts in the fight against Covid-19.”
Dr Dee said: “We will be recommending to our members that they accept this agreement.
“It is the culmination of a 20-year campaign to put Irish Public Health Medicine on a par with the rest of the medical profession.
“This agreement will bring Ireland into line with other jurisdictions such as New Zealand, Australia, UK and Canada in having the role of Consultant in Public Health Medicine.
“All existing Specialists in Public Health Medicine will have the opportunity to apply for new posts and we can finally see this critical specialty afforded the respect it deserves.”