National Public Health Emergency Team (2020)

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The National Public Health Emergency Team for COVID-19 (NPHET) ( /ˈnɛfət/ ; Irish : Foireann Náisiúnta Éigeandála Sláinte Poiblí do COVID-19) [1] is a political organisation within Ireland's Department of Health that oversees and provides national direction, support, guidance and expert advice on developing and implementing a strategy to control the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Ireland. [2]

Contents

This NPHET was established on 27 January 2020 in order to deal with the emerging SARS-CoV-2 problem. [3]

Background

NPHET was monitoring the spread of the virus before it was confirmed to have reached Ireland. [4] [5] When established in 2020, it initially had a medium-sized room in the Department of Health. [6] It then moved to a larger room as events developed. [6] Eventually, with the spread of the virus, the daily meetings were conducted remotely using Zoom. [6]

The first known case of COVID-19 to have arrived in Ireland was announced on 27 February 2020, in a woman who had been skiing in Northern Italy and had flown back through Dublin Airport, travelled by bus to Connolly station (Ireland's busiest railway station) before exiting into Northern Ireland by train; her case was confirmed two days later. [7] The first known case of COVID-19 in a resident of the Republic of Ireland was confirmed in the county of Dublin on 29 February 2020, in a secondary school student who had returned from an affected area in Northern Italy. [8] [9]

NPHET continued to meet after the virus had arrived in Ireland to co-ordinate the national response to the pandemic. [10] [11]

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan chairs NPHET, with the support of six deputy chief medical officers. Meetings tend to start with an epidemiology report on the latest viral developments in Ireland. [6] Holohan asks for the perspectives of public health doctors. [6] Two letters are drafted at the end of each meeting, one for the Taoiseach and the other for the Minister for Health. [6] In addition, before each meeting, Holohan gives its agenda to the Minister for Health in a call and queries if the government has anything specific they wish to have discussed. [6] Holohan stepped down as chief medical officer on 2 July 2020 for family reasons; [12] [13] Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn was subsequently appointed Acting Chief Medical Officer. [14] Holohan returned in October 2020. [15]

NPHET has used press briefings to communicate updates, guidelines, statistics and policy changes to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ireland. [16] [17] [18] [19]

After it emerged that the agenda and meeting notes of NPHET had not been published since the end of March, and following calls in Dáil Éireann for be rectified, minutes were subsequently published at the end of April. [20] [21] Shortly before this, NPHET published details of its governance structure. [22] [23]

Members

Members are from the Department of Health, HSE, HIQA, HPSC, ICGP and HPRA, as well as consultants, epidemiologists and the Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group and the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group. [6] [24] Three new members were appointed to the National Public Health Emergency Team on 6 January 2021. [25]

MemberRole
Tony Holohan Chief Medical Officer, Chair of NPHET [24]
Ronan Glynn Deputy Chief Medical Officers of the Department of Health [24]
Heather Burns
Desmond Hickey
Eibhlin Connolly
Alan Smith
Colette Bonner
Paul BolgerDirector of the Department of Health Resources Division [24]
Colm BerginConsultant Infectious Diseases, St. James's Hospital and Professor of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin [24]
Tracey ConroyAcute Hospitals Division of the Department of Health [24]
John CuddihyInterim Director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) [24]
Cillian de Gascun Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, Chair of the Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group [24]
Colm DesmondCorporate Legislation, Mental Health, Drugs Policy and Food Safety Division of the Department of Health [24]
Colm Henry Chief Clinical Officer of the Health Service Executive (HSE) [24]
Lorraine DohertyNational Clinical Director for Health Protection of the HPSC and HSE [24]
Mary FavierPresident of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) [24]
Fergal GoodmanPrimary Care Division of the Department of Health [24]
Kevin KelleherAssistant National Director of the HSE [24]
Marita KinsellaDirector of the National Patient Safety Office at the Department of Health [24]
Kathleen Mac LellanSocial Care Division of the Department of Health [24]
Jeanette Mc CallionMedical Assessor of the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) [24]
Tom McGuinnessAssistant National Director at the Office of Emergency Planning at the HSE [24]
Siobhán Ní BhrianLead for Integrated Care of the HSE [24]
Philip Nolan President of Maynooth University [24]
Kate O'FlahertyHead of Health and Wellbeing at the Department of Health [24]
Darina O'FlanaganSpecial Advisor to NPHET and the Department of Health [24]
Siobhan O'SullivanChief Bioethics Officer of the Department of Health [24]
Michael PowerNational Clinical Lead, Critical Care Programme, HSE Consultant in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care Medicine at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin [24]
Phelim QuinnChief Executive Officer of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) [24]
Máirín RyanDeputy Chief Executive and Director of Health Technology Assessment of HIQA [24]
Breda SmythDirector of Public Health Medicine of the HSE [24]
Deirdre WattersHead of Communications of the Department of Health [24]
Liam WoodsNational Director of Acute Operations of the HSE [24]
David WalshNational Director of Community Operations of the HSE [24]
David LeachDeputy National Director of Communications of the HSE [24]
Mary Horgan President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland [25]
Karina Butler Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) [25]
Mark FergusonDirector General of Science Foundation Ireland [25]

Subgroups

Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group

The Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group is a subgroup of NPHET. [26]

It is chaired by Cillian de Gascun, the UCD-based Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory. [27]

The Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group met for the first time on 5 February 2020 in Dublin. [28]

Acute Hospital Preparedness Subgroup

The Acute Hospital Preparedness Subgroup was formed on 3 March 2020 and met for the first time on 4 March 2020. It provides assurance on the preparedness of the acute hospital system to tackle significant increases in hospital admissions, and that plans for preparedness are being implemented across the public hospital system. [29]

It is chaired by Tracey Conroy, Assistant Secretary, Acute Hospitals Policy Division at the Department of Health. [24]

Behavioural Change Subgroup

The Behavioural Change Subgroup was formed on 18 March and is made up of nine members. [24] It was set up to provide insights and evidence to support the communications strategy and the wider work of NPHET. [30]

It is chaired by Kate O'Flaherty, Head of Health and Wellbeing at the Department of Health. [24]

Guidance and Evidence Synthesis Subgroup

The Guidance and Evidence Synthesis Subgroup was formed to facilitate information exchange on the public health and clinical guidance relating to COVID-19. The subgroup provides assurance to NPHET on coordination of surge evidence synthesis capacity to support the development of guidance. [31]

It is chaired by Máirín Ryan, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health Technology Assessment at HIQA. [24]

Modelling group

Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group

The Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group (IEMAG) is a modelling group of NPHET [24] formed on 11 March 2020 to provide statistical support and advice to NPHET and the Chief Medical Officer. [32] Staff at University College Dublin and other mathematical researchers in Ireland are involved in developing mathematical models for stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. [33]

It is chaired by Philip Nolan, the former president of Maynooth University. [34] [35]

Disbandment

Following speculation that NPHET would be disbanded from mid-October 2021, [36] Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed that the team would cease to exist as a separate body over time and that their role and the COVID-19 vaccination taskforce would be transitioned into the normal functions of the Department of Health and the HSE, after the Government published a plan for easing most COVID-19 restrictions by 22 October. [37]

See also

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