Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) public health doctors have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in a dispute over contracts.
Some 94% of the organisation’s public health specialists voted in favour of taking industrial action, up to and including strike action.
The IMO’s public health committee will meet on Monday to determine the timing and scope of the industrial action.
It will then advise the HSE and Department of Health so that engagement can take place on emergency cover during industrial action.
The IMO said that it deeply regretted that specialists in public health medicine were being forced to take industrial action.
— Irish Medical Organisation (@IMO_IRL) November 27, 2020
But it maintained the absence of any proposals from the Department of Health since the ballot was announced was indicative of the Department’s “lack of respect” for the medical workforce and its “lack of urgency” on public health medicine even during a pandemic.
Dr Ina Kelly, chairwoman of the IMO public health committee, said: “This is a fight for the future of public health medicine in Ireland.
“The refusal to follow international best practice and recognise consultant status and provide consultant contracts for suitably qualified specialists in public health medicine and the inadequate staff and resources for public health medicine can no longer be tolerated.
“We will take industrial action in order to save public health medicine in this country and to help make it fit for purpose.
“Doctors fully recognise their ethical responsibilities to patients and are very angry that Government has effectively forced us to take industrial action.”
She called on the Government to recognise that it too has an ethical responsibility to provide a comprehensive, safe, effective and sustainable public health medicine service to Irish people.
Dr Geraldine McDarby, recent graduate of the higher specialist training scheme in public health medicine, said: “With my clinical experience and training, countries around the world are more than willing to employ me as a consultant in public health medicine, but I can’t be recognised at that level here in Ireland.
“This is blatantly unfair. The message my colleagues and I hear loud and clear is that if we want our qualifications to be recognised we will have to go abroad where the contribution of public health doctors is valued and consultants are being actively recruited.”
The IMO said that all doctors practising across the health system stand in full support of their public health medicine colleagues in their fight for consultant status.