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

My information is that the talks are at an impasse and the IMO has walked out. The Crowe Horwath report stipulated that the training of a cohort of specialists in public health medicine should be at a standard recognised internationally and equivalent to other medical specialties.

I appreciate the commitment of the Minister of State. Specialists in public health medicine and medical officers of health are responsible for the health of the population and we, as a Government and a Parliament, must afford them the same contracts as those of their colleagues in hospital consultant posts, who have the same level of qualification as they do, which enables them to have the requisite authority to do their job properly. We must empower and recognise them and give them status. We must also deliver the appropriate number of staff with a range of skills and competencies in multidisciplinary teams.

Yesterday, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, spoke about increasing the public sector pay bill. I hope the Minister of State will join, and I will work with her, to ensure we look after this group of people who are now so pivotal in a post-pandemic Ireland.This is about specialists in public health medicine in our communities.

Deputy Mary Butler:I thank the Senator again for raising this issue. As I have said already, engagement with the IMO is ongoing. I am not privy to the details but I am sure he will join me in saying that when one gets various groups around the table, communication is essential. That is the best way forward for any discussion. The only way that any solution can be found, regardless of whether it is in education, health or business, is to sit down and talk.

I reiterate that the introduction of the consultant-led public health model, as recommended in the Crowe Horwath report, is an immediate priority for the Department. Our public health specialists, as we all know, have been to the forefront of the response to the pandemic. They have given tirelessly in response to this very dangerous virus. We want to make sure we work closely with the public health doctors and put in place the best public health structures going forward. We want this to happen because we want to ensure public health medicine is an attractive career choice for anybody who is considering medicine as a career.

To conclude, it is very important that all sides get together and try to move forward because that is the only way that can happen.


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