SYSTEM OVERLOAD: The public health system was creaking before the pandemic - has Covid-19 broken it?
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At the start of 2021, Ireland had a backlog of thousands of positive Covid-19 tests awaiting validation.

At the time, public health specialist Dr Marie Casey said validation involved surveillance scientists taking data from contact tracing and inputting it into a 20-year-old reporting system, with much of this work manual and not automated.

Outbreak management, contract tracing, transmission chains and infectious disease. These are all areas of public health we have become familiar with.

However, HSE public health staff have highlighted inadequacies in IT and other systems they use on a daily basis, with calls for improved infrastructure to help with tasks such as real time reporting.

Public health doctors were also due to strike at the start of 2021 but this was deferred due to the spike in Covid-19 numbers. The dispute centres around claims from the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) that the Government has failed to allow suitably qualified public health doctors be employed as consultants.

In 2020, the Government said it planned to increase the public health workforce and a business case on a proposed framework for a future public health model was submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure in November of that year.

There were clearly serious issues in the public health system that were exposed further in the pandemic - why are they taking so long to fix?


We want to look beyond the headline news and take a deep-dive into the public health system in Ireland to find out the key issues faced over the past number of months and years.

By talking to public health experts, we want to investigate how their jobs - and the response to the pandemic - are impacted by the current systems and staffing in place.

Finally, we will analyse public health departments across the world and speak to international experts to find out how Ireland compares.

If you want to make a contribution to help this investigation happen, click the 'Fund This Proposal' button. Noteworthy investigations are sourced from and crowdfunded by the public.

You can contact us at and find out how we work here.

52 Backers raised €1840 of €1840
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