Seanad debates

Friday, 12 February 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Health Services Staff

10:30 am

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I will respond to this on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly. I welcome the opportunity to address the House on this issue and I thank Senator Buttimer for raising it. I express my sincere gratitude to our public health doctors, who have been at the forefront of our response to the pandemic and have made an enormous contribution to the protection of everyone living in Ireland. The Government has already shown it is committed to investment in our public health workforce. The Minister has already committed to significant investment in public health, with the announcement of plans to double the current workforce by recruiting an additional 255 permanent staff at an annual cost of more than €17 million. This includes public health doctors, nurses, scientists and support staff. This is not only a response to the current pandemic but is an investment in the future development of our public health function. Recruitment for these posts is a priority for the HSE.

A significant body of work was already under way but the pandemic has certainly highlighted to us all that public health medicine must be reformed and strengthened such that the skills and expertise unique to public health physicians can be leveraged to ensure maximum return for the Irish health service and ultimately benefit and improve the health of the population as a whole.

The Minister has been very clear and consistent on his commitment to delivering on the recommendations that were made for public health in the Crowe Horwath report, to which the Senator referred. The report recognised the very important role that public health medicine plays in the health of our population and in how our health service is managed and delivered.

Officials from the Department, in conjunction with the HSE, have completed a substantial amount of work on a detailed framework for the future public health model, which includes consultant level roles. A process of engagement has begun between health service management and the Irish Medical Organisation. The Department of Health and the HSE met the Irish Medical Organisation on Wednesday, 27 January and on 3 February. The Department hopes this engagement will continue over the coming weeks. Engagement with the Irish Medical Organisation is ongoing and the Minister has stated it would not be appropriate for him to discuss the specific details at this time. Just so the Senator knows, they have met twice and the appropriate levels of communication are ongoing.


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