New health role created

A NEW role of director of public health is to be created, replacing the Island’s medical officer of health and modernising the leadership of the government function, according to a senior civil servant.

Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30473910)
Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30473910)

Recruitment for the post is currently under way and the new role will have a wider remit across government rather than being limited to purely medical matters.

Its introduction follows the retirement of Dr Susan Turnbull in October and comes as the Island’s public-health function is expected to be expanded permanently, post pandemic, to support the implementation of the new Jersey Care Model, which will shape the future of healthcare in the Island.

Tom Walker, director general of the Strategic Policy, Planning and Performance Department, in which the public-health function now sits, said the new director of public health would have exactly the same professional independence as the medical officer of health had always enjoyed.

‘It has always been a change that was planned to reflect the modern requirements of the British Faculty of Public Health, but the fundamentals of the role won’t be affected,’ he said. ‘It’s a change in title and will help bring a wider focus on Islanders’ health and wellbeing, beyond the more medical aspects.’

He added that Guernsey had made a similar change in recent years with the appointment of Dr Nicola Brink as its director of public health, and the Isle of Man had also moved to a similar system.

A recruitment campaign began earlier this year and closed recently. The applicants will now be assessed in a process overseen by the Jersey Appointments Commission. Independent representatives from the British Faculty of Public Health will also be involved.

Two interim post-holders have been in place in recent months to fill the gap left by Dr Turnbull and provide increased support to deputy medical officer of health Dr Ivan Muscat during the pandemic.

Cynthia Folarin is currently interim director of public health practice. She is on a six-month contract that is due to finish on 26 April. According to a recent response to a freedom of information request, she has more than 30 years’ experience and has a ‘track record in developing and implementing public health programmes at a national, regional and local level’.

Meanwhile, Alex Khaldi has been serving as interim director of public health policy since 16 September on a contract that is currently due to expire on 15 March.

According to the freedom of information response, the roles were created to provide extra senior-policy support during the pandemic and their creation was signed off by the States Employment Board. It is expected that Ms Folarin will leave when her contract expires, but there could be an extension to Mr Khaldi’s contract to provide a longer transition with the new director, subject to the pressures of the pandemic.

The response also stated that both interim positions were advertised locally but that no local candidates were identified.

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