The HSE has confirmed to the Medical Independent (MI) that a market soundings process is currently being undertaken for the procurement of a national outbreak case and incident management IT system.
The need for an outbreak case and incident IT management system is part of the public health reform programme and there is a commitment to procurement in the HSE National Service Plan 2023.
The HSE spokesperson said the market soundings process is at the informal vendor engagement phase. “This will inform the tender to be issued during 2023,” they told MI.
When asked about the cost of such a system, the spokesperson said: “Until a solution is in the final stages of procurement the financial commitment required can only be estimated based on market scanning.”
“ICT funding for 2023 has been budgeted at €500,000 with additional project costs also estimated. The spend will be spread over a number of years given the scale of the project.”
Speaking recently to MI, Chair of the IMO public health committee Dr Anne Dee noted the importance of such a system as a “key enabler” of reforming public health medicine.
Currently, all public health departments have separate methods for recording the work that they do in terms of notifications, in particular for outbreaks.
“With outbreaks, you saw with Covid, you have all these contacts, and then these contacts have contacts, and then tests have to ordered and people have to be followed up,” Dr Dee told this newspaper.
“So, there is a big package of work that goes with each outbreak.”
She said the task of sourcing a national system has been ongoing since the beginning of implementation of the public health reform programme.
“They are not things you can go and buy off the shelf,” stated Dr Dee. “It has had a few stops and starts, but I think it is well on the way to happening.”
She pointed out that a national database for notifiable infections is in place.
“Obviously these systems need to be able to talk to each other, and they need to be able to talk to whatever vaccination system is coming in,” Dr Dee said.
“Previously each department would have had an on-call function, and we are moving towards having a national on-call system, or maybe… having one on-call system for each region,” Dr Dee said.
“In order to be able to manage information flows then you need to have electronic systems.”
The public health reform programme followed agreement between the IMO and health management in 2021.
The enhanced service delivery model changes the governance and operating structure within public health, introducing new national and regional management structure across each of the pillars of public health through a consultant-led ‘hub-and-spoke’ structure.