Seanad debates

Friday, 12 February 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Health Services Staff

10:30 am

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister of State. The issue of public health doctors is an important one in our community, notwithstanding Senator Mullen's remarks. There have been numerous reports recommending a restructuring of the public health medicine scheme and specialists are awaiting consultant status. The Crowe Horwath report was the most recently commissioned and was published in January 2020. It was viewed as the roadmap by which progress could be made by the Department of Health towards parity of esteem and position for public health medicine specialists.

We all agree that a highly functioning health service must be underpinned by a strong investment in and commitment to public health. Our public health doctors are a pillar of that construction. They specialise in public health and, in many cases, have large swathes of the population as their patients. They investigate the health status of their patients using a bespoke health information system, evaluate the evidence for addressing poor health status, design the requisite improved services and evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of those health services that are targeted at particular diseases in population groups. They are an important pillar of our public health model. A strong public health function has been identified as a key component of Sláintecare as an important enabler of the reorientation of the health service.

My Commencement matter is based on the talks that are taking place between public health doctors and the Department of Health. As a former Chairman of the then Joint Committee on Health and Children, I am aware of the work and role of our public health doctors. We all agree that we need a public health medical structure that is fit for purpose, especially in post-pandemic Ireland. Given that we are committed to the implementation and funding of Sláintecare, the tackling of health inequalities must begin with our public health doctors. The progress of the talks has been slow and I am concerned about what is happening there. We all recognise that if there is to be reform of our public health system, the new consultant position for public health doctors must be given parity with their colleagues. Many reports have been commissioned, all of which have recommended a restructuring of our public health system and the awarding of consultant status to public health medicine specialists.As I have said, the Crowe Horwath report and, now, the talks are the next stepping stones.

I ask for an update on the talks and I ask that the Government commits to the parity that public health doctors deserve. I thank the Minister of State for being here. I would like to add something to Senator Mullen's contribution. What he has said is quite correct. There is a need for all of us to be very vigilant and very supportive of what he has raised as part of his report. We saw in the summer and in the first wave the fatalities and illnesses. The vaccination programme should take cognisance of what Senator Mullen has said.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.