MEDMARK – A GUN FOR HIRE FOR DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Medmark is a private healthcare company, contracted by the Dept of Ed/Skills since 2008, to certify Teachers/SNAs as fit or unfit for work. It is not at all like going to your doctor and regularly over-rules doctor’s advice, forcing teachers/SNAs back to work on threat of discipline. With the reopening of schools this week, Medmark have made news by redefining teacher and SNAs illness. Where HIGH RISK was enough to have people cocooning during lockdown, it now can push them back into the classrooms, as a new category of VERY HIGH RISK is required to stay away from the workplace.
The Teaching unions accepted the contract in 2008. The Greens were in Government at the time, one of the directors of Medmark is Eamon Ryan’s brother.
Medmark plays a quasi-health role but responds to the employer, instead of the patient – indeed, there is no patient/doctor relationship. According to Dr Robert Ryan,a director of Medmark – “We’re there to ensure that from the school’s point of view they’re able to manage the health component.” Furthermore, conversations between HR and the Medmark employee are not available to the patient.
Endless stories abound that teachers & SNAs with underlying illnesses, whose own doctors and in some cases, consultants have deemed them unfit to work in a school environment, are finding their healthcare experts over-ruled by Medmark to just ‘High Risk’ and told to present for work. Schools do not have the capacity to allow for the type of distancing or frequent washing required for these conditions forcing compromised staff into impossible situations.
Unions have had plenty of opportunity to challenge Medmark over the years which would have prevented this situation. Trade Unionists in Waterford in 2013 challenged a Medmark finding, forcing a teacher back to work. The employer – as had been the norm – threatened discipline, but the branch demanded that a higher expertise was required and further to the examination of an Occupational Health doctor, the teacher was not deemed fit and Medmark was over-ruled.
Had this been used as a comparator by the Unions, no Medmark Doctor would over-rule an expert, but unfortunately, this is happening constantly.
People Before Profit calls for the complete overhaul of the Occupational Health Service in the Department of Ed/Skills and for it’s replacement with a fair and equitable service.