Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (252)

Claire Kerrane


252. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Health his plans to ensure that strike action by public health specialists is avoided; his further plans for these specialists in their request for consultant status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26147/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Firstly, I want to acknowledge the decision of the public health specialists not to engage in industrial action at this time and to allow two months to address their request for consultant status. I also wish to again acknowledge the key roles of the specialists in leading the State's response to the pandemic.

The Department of Health, in conjunction with the HSE, has been engaged with the IMO on the question of consultant status for public health specialists as recommended in the Crowe Horwath Report on the Specialty. Consultant status is also consistent with the role envisaged for the specialists in Slaintecare and Professor Scally’s Report on the National Screening Service ('CervicalCheck') under a new public health framework.

I, my Department and the HSE are committed to the early introduction of a new framework for public healthcare, as provided for in the Programme for Government, and to the framework incorporating consultant status for public health specialists. While finalisation of the future framework was paused in the context of Covid-19, addressing the pandemic has accelerated the implementation of many of the Crowe Horwath recommendations.

The specialty is already working - and leading out - the operationalisation of a very different operational model in response to the pandemic from that which was previously in place; the role of the public health doctor has transitioned very rapidly from one of leading small confined teams, to now leading and directing the activities of a very broad range of organisations and large multidisciplinary teams and the workforce has been diversified to a level not previously envisaged. This reform will continue when the Pandemic Framework, currently the immediate priority for the HSE, is finalised.

Teams are now in place in my Department and the HSE working on a related business case for submission to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform seeking consultant status and remuneration and this will be completed and submitted as soon as possible. We will also continue to engage with the IMO over the coming weeks. There is an amount of work to be completed and we are committed to progressing this as a priority.