An overwhelming majority of the country’s public health doctors have voted to accept a government offer to give them a pay rise and consultant status.
The ballot on the deal the Irish Medical Organisation struck as part of the government’s implementation of its new consultant-led "Public Health Model" for Ireland closed at 5pm.
In a statement this afternoon, the IMO said 87% of returned ballots were in favour of accepting the agreement.
And they said: “With this mandate from members the IMO will now ratify the agreement with the State side.
“The IMO will actively monitor the implementation of this agreement and will be seeking an early meeting with the HSE with regard to the planned timeline for posts to be advertised.”
The plan is for the deal to be progressed on a phased basis, and effectively brings to an end a 20-year dispute over recognition for Specialists in Public Health Medicine (SPHMs).
The IMO’s Public Health Committee, which secured the deal after intense extra negotiation over the past few months, had recommended SPHMs accept the deal.
It will now see the HSE create 84 consultant posts in Public Health for the first time ever.
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.
Dr Anne Dee, Chairperson of Public Health Committee of the IMO said: “This agreement is the culmination of a 20-year campaign to put Irish Public Health Medicine on a par with the rest of the medical profession.
“We welcome the decision of our members to accept the agreement.
“We believe that it is a landmark agreement for the future of public health in Ireland and will bring the public health discipline here into line with other jurisdictions such as New Zealand, Australia, UK and Canada in having the role of Consultant in Public Health Medicine.”
She added: “All existing Specialists in Public Health Medicine will have the opportunity to apply for new posts and this agreement will support our efforts to recruit the next generation of public health doctors who will be relieved to see that Ireland will now respect their skillset in the same manner as other specialties and as other countries do.”
A deal 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.
When the new deal was struck, Mr Donnelly said it was “a great result for Ireland and for our public healthcare system”.
And he added that public health doctors deserved it and that he was delighted to be able to deliver it.