Prof Emer Shelley, Dean of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, has welcomed the announcement to reform the public health service saying it is a “welcome investment” and an important development to address the many COVID and non-COVID challenges we face in the months and years ahead.
Prof Emer Shelley said: “The announcement by Minister Donnelly is a welcome investment and April 15th, 2021 will go down as a major milestone in the history of public health in Ireland. The news has boosted morale during the pandemic and my colleagues are eager to participate in the reform process.”
“There is a large literature on the cost savings and the health dividend from prevention and population approaches to health, so Minister Michael McGrath in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform can be assured of a strong long-term return on investment. The reform of public health and the additional resources will be important in rebuilding our health service to address the many COVID and non-COVID challenges we face in the months and years ahead.”
“On foot of the commitment by the Department of Health and the HSE for a reformed and resourced consultant-delivered public health service, the Faculty will support the transition through its Higher Specialty Training and Continuing Professional Development programmes” Prof Shelley said.
The proposed ‘hub and spoke’ model is consistent with what the Faculty proposed to the Crowe Horwath review.
The national ‘hubs’ will have strong links with regional services and improve the quality of local services. Investment in a consultant-delivered public health service will involve creating multidisciplinary teams to broaden skillsets, increase productivity and provide value for money. The teams will be working with hospital and community services to improve health and access to care, consistent with what’s planned in Sláintecare.
Much of the initial focus will be on health protection as the need for surveillance, clinical guidance, contact tracing and control of outbreaks, and the vaccination programme will continue for the foreseeable future. However, the pandemic has drawn attention to issues which have long been highlighted by the public health community, such as the burden of chronic diseases, the necessity to invest in prevention and the need to strengthen health information systems.
Public health has a special focus on those who are marginalised, groups which suffered disproportionately during the pandemic. So, as well as a national hub for health protection, there will be hubs for health improvement and health service improvement to address these pressings issue for the health of the population.