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HSE's disease surveillance centre receives €3m funding boost for 43 permanent roles

The HPSC is Ireland’s specialist agency for the surveillance of communicable diseases.

Data on Covid-19 outbreaks gathered by the HPSC.
Data on Covid-19 outbreaks gathered by the HPSC.
Image: HPSC

THE HEALTH PROTECTION Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is to receive a €3 million funding boost to create 43 permanent positions, the HSE has confirmed. 

The HPSC is Ireland’s specialist agency for the surveillance of communicable diseases and has provided key data to Public Health officials and Government throughout Covid-19. 

Information gathered by the HPSC on clusters and outbreaks has informed decision-making by NPHET, which advises the Government on the spread of the virus and other key indications. 

Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) Dr Cillian de Gascun told TheJournal.ie that the HPSC is a “vital component” of Ireland’s Covid-19 response.

“[The HPSC] has been quite high profile this year in the context of Covid-19 but the surveillance centre is the organisation that in non-pandemic times is collating all of our data on influenza, norovirus, rotavirus and TB.”

A HSE spokesperson said that an additional €3.1 million in funding will be used to create 43 roles across medical, nursing, surveillance, and administration. 

This will include setting up a team to deliver a “National Seroepidemiology Unit” to measure community-based seroprevalence of infectious diseases, such as Covid-19.

In the context of the pandemic, Public Health departments throughout Ireland gather information on outbreaks and pass this information on to the HPSC which then processes the data to gain a clear picture of how diseases spread. 

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“People think surveillance activities, I suppose, aren’t terribly important or terribly sexy but in fact surveillance is really the cornerstone of our Public Health response,” said Dr de Gascun.

Dr de Gascun said the resourcing of the HPSC is “fundamental to coordinating Public Health’s response but also collating the data and analyzing the data that informs our response to the pandemic”. 

“If you look back to what happened in Wuhan, China, they had an outbreak of a respiratory illness that wasn’t caused by any of the normal, routine pathogens. So that’s where your surveillance centre really comes into its own because it takes in notifications in from all over the country and realises there’s something that needs to be investigated.”

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