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Covid-19 public health redeployments extended

NIAMH CAHILL

All temporary staff redeployments to support regional Departments of Public Health and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in their response to Covid-19 have been extended until the end of 2020, it has emerged.

In addition, staff originally redeployed but recalled to their usual posts are to be made available to public health “for recall with immediate effect”.
The actions were detailed in a letter dated 11 August to HSE managers who had originally provided staff for redeployment. The letter from Dr Lorraine Doherty, HSE National Clinical Director of Health Protection, sought the support of managers in implementing the measures.

At the time, it was noted that new cases remained “relatively low” compared to the peak of the pandemic, but that 183 open outbreaks were being managed.

A public health pandemic workforce plan has been developed by the HSE, the letter stated, of which redeployments were an “essential component”.
According to the letter, “it is expected that resources will be secured to stabilise the pandemic response, suggesting that permanent support for public health remained lacking.”

Redeployments will be used to scale up and down capacity “as required”, as changing patterns of the disease occurred over the coming months, the letter stated.

Sources have told the Medical Independent that while redeployments are taking place theoretically, they do not always materialise in practice.
Redeployed staff are slow to return to public health posts, it is understood, because they are reluctant to leave their usual roles.

Furthermore, some staff redeployed once again to public health are returning for shorter periods than previously, at only 0.6 whole time equivalent (WTE), meaning redeployed staff will remain partly working in their usual role 0.4 WTE of the time.

It is understood that the redeployments to public health were primarily taken from Community Healthcare Organisations and national services, such as the HSE’s Health and Wellbeing Division.

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