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02 Oct 2022

Public Health North East given HSE Excellence Award for response to Covid-19

HSE Excellence Award Certificate

Public Health North East given HSE Excellence Award for response to Covid-19

Displaying the Excellence Award Certificate to Public Health Department is Dr Bernadette O’Keefe and her colleagues from Public Health North East

Public Health North East, the department which covers Louth, Monaghan, Cavan and Meath, has been bestowed with a HSE Excellence Award for the Health Service's response to COVID-19.

The HSE Excellence Award Certificate to Public Health Departments for the Health Services response to COVID-19 took place on Zoom, on Monday 31 January.

In presenting the excellence award, Dr Colm Henry, HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer, acknowledged that “hundreds of hard-working staff in every region, including doctors, nurses, surveillance teams, contact tracers and administrative staff, have played a unique role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic”

Dr Augustine Pereira, Director of Public Health North East, accepting the award on behalf of the staff of the North East said, “We came together as a unified workforce to serve the people of Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath – and to address the evolving pandemic challenges, with one goal - reducing serious illness and loss of life.”

Dr Bernadette O’Keefe, Specialist in Public Health outlined that “the pandemic work began long before the first case appeared in Ireland, as we worked to prepare guidance and processes, in order to respond quickly to whatever scenario presented.  As the pandemic evolved, we had to continually revise and adapt, and communicate the rationale for what we were doing.

"The long hours of intense work were tough, but there was also a sense of satisfaction in being able to do what we are trained to do, and use our skills to control the transmission of infection in the population we serve.”  

Dr O’Keefe acknowledged “the support we received was uplifting, particularly the help from colleagues who came to work with us in the Department from other areas of the health service, or returning from retirement.  For some, Public Health was a new area of work, but they rose to the challenge and made a huge contribution.  It was a reminder of the calibre of people who work in the health service.” 

Dr Pereira admitted that Public Health teams tend to work in the background of health protection, improvement and surveillance, but were pushed to prominence in their role in the pandemic and added “Today, as we celebrate this recognition, I personally want to thank our teams of Public Health Specialists, SMOs, Nurses, Surveillance teams, and broader contact management and helpline response, as well as our management and administration support individuals.

"All of us were unified in the single goal of controlling infection sources, blocking transmission routes, and protecting those most vulnerable in our communities”

Adding that “Each and every individual of our dedicated teams utilised their knowledge and expertise in population health, and responsibility in infectious disease control, in addressing the pandemic’s immediate impacts on the health of local populations.  

"Their understanding of local places and resources situated them at the epicentre of public health decision making. With a dedicated team of nurses and doctors identifying, tracking & breaking virus transmissions in community settings, residential care homes, nursing homes, schools and workforces and other vulnerable settings, the Department did its best to halt the pandemic.”

Above: colleagues meet in person with their online colleagues in Environmental Health, Health Promotion, School inspection and Community Medical officers at the HSE Excellence Awards to Public Health North East

Staff

Before the pandemic was declared, the Public Health Department of the North East had 13 staff. The team rapidly grew at the peak to over 100 staff.  Dr Pereira acknowledged the support offered to Public Health from colleagues and partners:

“We had a lot of help along the way, and we couldn't have done it without the  support of our amazing colleagues who came to help out – from Health Promotion & Improvement, School Inspectors, Environmental Health Officers, Primary Care team, Community Medical Doctors.

"They all came and worked with our core PH staff as one team, and we were stronger together. Their specialist knowledge and willingness to come on board, often at short notice, in times of great uncertainty is gratefully acknowledged today”

Vaccination & Vigilance

Going forward testing and isolating will remain essential, say Public Health North East and "we can never assume that this is the last variant and we are in the end game. Last week there were over 12.000 positive cases in the North East."

Dr Pereira said “I want to remember the lives we lost to Covid.  And remembering them we validate and strengthen our commitment to do everything possible to avoid preventable deaths going forward.

"We have vaccines and we shall make sure we do everything possible to offer vaccines to anyone who hasn't had one so everyone is protected. And as we committed in our department strategy which we developed during the last year, we shall do everything possible to tackle health inequity, experienced by the most vulnerable in society.”

Dr Pereira concluded his acceptance of the Award, in addressing Public Health Team North East, saying, “colleagues, there are many lessons from the pandemic, but one that stands out for me is the true dedication and commitment I have witnessed and the vital and essential role public health has played throughout the pandemic, and in accepting this award on your behalf, I dedicate this award to each and every one of you.”

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