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Speaking at the meeting, Dr Mary O’Riordan, a public health specialist in emergency preparedness and response at the HPSC, said the position had been vacant following Dr Darina O’Flanagan’s retirement in May 2016.
She said health security was “a really big issue” due to globalisation, climate change and emerging threats.
Global connections meant the Irish population was not invulnerable to threats such as Ebola virus and Zika virus, she outlined.
“To have a focal point for health protection is extremely important for our country, and to have that Director being that focal point in terms of international linkage. It is a critical post that has to be filled.”
Dr O’Riordan’s motion called on the HSE to take immediate steps to fill the position as soon as possible “to assure the continued health security of the nation”.
Speakers noted that there had been attempts to appoint a new Director. The meeting agreed to amend the motion to refer to the need to fill the post “with appropriate terms and conditions”. The amended motion was passed.
As reported last month in the Medical Independent, the HSE has engaged in a procurement process to obtain a recruitment agency to conduct the search for a new Director, following unsuccessful recruitment campaigns.
Commenting on the ongoing vacancy, Dr Patrick O’Sullivan said it was illustrative of a disregard for public health medicine and population health. “To not have filled that post for around 12 months now is just a complete disregard for the importance of the health security of the nation but also the health of the population… I think this is hugely important, but it reflects the view of management towards public health and the way they treat us.”