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Work on the National Traveller Health Action Plan is “substantially delayed” by the pandemic, but remains a “priority”, this newspaper has been told. Traveller organisations had raised concerns over delays in publication of the plan prior to the pandemic. In October 2019, the Oireachtas joint committee on key issues affecting the Traveller community heard from representatives who raised the matter. “A national Traveller action plan should be published and implemented urgently,” Ms Kathleen Sherlock of Mincéir Whiden told the committee. However, a HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) there will be further delays to the publication of the plan.
“The HSE’s steering group committee is currently finalising the draft National Traveller Health Action Plan,” the Executive spokesperson told MI. “Due to Covid-19 and the numbers of staff redeployed for the purposes of associated service provision, the concluding of the plan has been substantially delayed, but remains a priority.”
The HSE provides support to a range of primary care projects and other initiatives for Travellers including Traveller health units (THUs) and primary healthcare for Traveller projects (PHCTPs). In terms of Covid-19 prevention within the community, the HSE spokesperson said its priorities have included raising awareness of infection prevention and control measures and working with THUs and NGO partners, such as Pavee Point, to promote such measures.
According to the HSE, it was also involved in “advocacy in reduction of overcrowding where possible”. It said its support measures included regular meetings, a national helpline, website resource page, inclusion of the Traveller community as a “priority group” in testing criteria, and a Traveller specific webinar held on infection control. The HSE National Social Inclusion Office coordinated a national Covid-19 Traveller service-user experience survey in September.