Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Health

National Public Health Emergency Team

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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662. To ask the Minister for Health the details of the members he approved for appointment to the National Public Health Emergency Team; if documentation on the way in which such persons were chosen will be provided; and the way in which he approved such appointments. [6645/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) for COVID-19 was established on 27 January 2020. It is chaired by the Chief Medical Officer. The NPHET oversees and provides national direction, guidance, support and expert advice on the development and implementation of a strategy to contain COVID-19 in Ireland.  It is not a permanent structure, but rather is established in response to emerging public health emergencies. 

The NPHET is a long -standing mechanism, which has been utilised over many years to provide a forum to steer strategic approaches to public health emergencies in Ireland and to mobilise the necessary health service responses.  This is consistent with Ireland’s obligations under World Health Organisation International Health Regulations, where States are required to establish multidisciplinary /multisectoral teams to respond to events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

The National Action Plan on COVID-19, published on 16 March, 2020 states that Ireland’s approach will be to “continue to deliver a public health-led evidence-based Government-wide response to COVID-19, including enabling the NPHET to advise across Government, drive immediate actions, and steer contingency planning, as well as appropriate and proportionate decision-making”.

The composition of any particular NPHET established will depend on the nature of the particular public health threat in question.  There are currently 31 multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral members on the NPHET. The members are:

Members NPHET
Dr Tony Holohan (Chair) Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health (DOH)
Prof Colm Bergin Consultant Infectious Diseases, St. James’s Hospital and Professor of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin
Mr Paul Bolger Director, Resources Division, DOH
Dr Eibhlin Connolly Deputy Chief Medical Officer, DOH
Ms Tracey Conroy A/Sec, Acute Hospitals Division, DOH
Dr John Cuddihy Interim Director, Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC)
Dr Cillian de Gascun Director, National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL), UCD, Consultant Virologist
Mr Colm Desmond A/Sec, Corporate Legislation, Mental Health, Drugs Policy and Food Safety Division, DOH
Dr Lorraine Doherty National Clinical Director for Health Protection, HPSC, HSE
Dr Mary Favier President, Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP)
Dr Ronan Glynn Deputy Chief Medical Officer, DOH
Mr Fergal Goodman A/Sec, Primary Care Division, DOH
Dr Colm Henry Chief Clinical Officer, HSE
Dr Kevin Kelleher Asst. National Director, Public Health, HSE
Mr David Leach Deputy National Director of Communications, HSE
Dr Kathleen Mac Lellan A/Sec, Social Care Division, DOH
Dr Jeanette Mc Callion Medical Assessor, Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA)
Mr Tom McGuinness Asst. National Director, Office of Emergency Planning, HSE
Dr Siobhán Ní Bhrian Lead for Integrated Care, HSE
Prof Philip Nolan President, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Ms Kate O’Flaherty Head of Health and Wellbeing, DOH
Dr Darina O'Flanagan Special Advisor to the NPHET, DOH
Dr Siobhan O'Sullivan Chief Bioethics Officer, DOH
Dr Michael Power National Clinical Lead, Critical Care Programme, HSE

Consultant in Anaesthetics/Intensive Care Medicine, Beaumont Hospital
Mr Phelim Quinn Chief Executive Officer, HIQA
Dr Máirín Ryan Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health Technology Assessment, HIQA
Dr Alan Smith Deputy Chief Medical Officer, DOH
Dr Breda Smyth Director of Public Health Medicine, HSE
Mr David Walsh National Director, Community Operations, HSE
Ms Deirdre Watters Head of Communications, DOH
Mr Liam Woods National Director, Acute Operations, HSE

As can be seen, representatives from across the healthcare landscape are included within the membership of the NPHET, including key agencies such as the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). The Chief Clinical Officer, National Director of Acute Operations and National Director for Community Operations are among the 11 representatives of the HSE on NPHET, as are the Interim Director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the National Clinical Director, Health Protection. The NPHET also communicates directly with the HSE National Crisis Management Team which leads and manages the HSE’s response.

In addition, the NPHET benefits from the insights of medical professionals working at the frontline of the COVID-19 response through the members representing the Irish College of General Practitioners, and from the disciplines of intensive care, infectious diseases, virology, psychiatry and geriatrics.

It is important to note that while NPHET is coordinating Ireland’s public health response to COVID-19 it is supported by nine sub-groups including Acute Hospitals; Vulnerable People; Irish Epidemiological Modelling; Health Sector Workforce and others. The NPHET is also supported in developing its recommendations by an Expert Advisory Group. All told, there are in excess of 200 people representing over 50 organisations across academia, Government, community & voluntary sectors as well as the breadth of the health system. Each provides their clinical, policy, and operational expertise to inform the advice that is presented to Government in response to the pandemic. The full governance arrangements for the NPHET were published by the Government on 28 April last at

As the Deputy is aware, the NPHET is not an executive body in and of itself. Its members are drawn from across the public, voluntary and medical sectors and its remit is to provide me as Minister for Health, and the Government, with appropriate public health advice.

Those members of the NPHET who are officials of the Department of Health are accountable to the Secretary General of the Department and to me. The CEO of the HSE, Mr Paul Reid, has nominated the HSE officials sitting on the NPHET, and a similar situation prevails with regard to the other organisations represented on the NPHET.

The composition of any NPHET is dependent upon the nature of the threat being faced. In the current situation, in the face of a highly infectious and fast moving disease, where the understanding of the epidemiology of the virus is constantly evolving, it requires the flexibility to alter its membership on an ongoing basis and at pace in order to ensure that the appropriate expertise is available to deliver the best possible advice to myself and the Government.

I am in continuous contact with the Secretary General of the Department, the Chief Medical Officer and the Management Board of the Department and am consistently briefed on the innovative and flexible approach that is being adopted in responding to this devastating new global public health threat.

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