The Public Health Committee of the IMO has labelled the Government’s handling of a dispute on the extension of consultant contracts as “shocking” on what was the scheduled first day of planned strike action.
Three days of strike action was scheduled for today, Wednesday, January 20 and Thursday, January 21.
A ballot seeking approval for strike action was held in late November and 94% of IMO public health doctors voted in favour of strike action.
However, the committee took the decision last week to postpone the strike action in light of the worsening Covid-19 crisis facing the country with the matter due to be reviewed at the end of the month.
Former lecturer in public health at University College Cork (UCC) and current Chair of the IMO Public Health Committee, Dr Ina Kelly, said that the Government’s handling of the dispute “is shocking and shows an indifference to addressing the danger of such an understrength public health medicine service”.
“We now have an overwhelming mandate from our members for strike action but given the rapid escalation of Covid-19 cases we have deferred that action for the moment.
“We are highly committed to protecting the health of our communities and much of our work every day now is to limit the size and impact of Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and Hospitals.
“Unfortunately our commitment is not matched by the Government who continue to ignore the need to have a consultant-led public health medicine workforce.
“Their indifference is hugely damaging to the morale of the public health doctors manning the front line in this fight against Covid-19.
“It is all the more galling given that we were in talks on these issues from January 2019 to January 2020 when much progress was made.
Engagement ceased a year ago and nothing has been progressed since despite the fact that we did everything that was asked of us and more, with too few resources.
Dr Kelly said that the Government “must recognise that it is now beyond time to finally recognise public health specialists as consultants”.
“We have had enough of the meaningless words of thanks for our hard work. We demand commitments to the reforms that will safeguard our specialty and acknowledge our importance. Given the inaction by Government it is difficult to see how strike action can be avoided,” she said.