Public health nurses should have role in universal primary care planning

“Invisible” sector undervalued, international conference told

 Minister of State for Health Alex White told the conference that the Government was committed to a phased universal GP service, and he hoped to “make a good start on this vital project, perhaps as early as in the Budget, due to be announced in mid-October”.

Minister of State for Health Alex White told the conference that the Government was committed to a phased universal GP service, and he hoped to “make a good start on this vital project, perhaps as early as in the Budget, due to be announced in mid-October”.

 


If the Government is committed to universal primary care, public health nursing should be represented on its project team, according to the Institute of Community Health Nursing (ICHN).

Mary O’Dowd, ICHN director, told an international conference in Galway last week that it would “welcome the opportunity for public health nursing to be represented” on the Department of Health’s national primary care management team.

The 1,500 public health and 500 community nurses employed by the HSE nationwide tend to be post-graduates, with considerable medical experience which is not fully recognised or acknowledged, Ms O’Dowd said. They are “ideally placed” to promote and sustain wellbeing in the community, she pointed out.

Ms O’Dowd was speaking at the third international public health nursing conference at NUI Galway (NUIG), where the sector’s role in primary care globally was acknowledged.

Delegates from 24 countries heard World Health Organisation (WHO) technical officer Annette Mwansa Nkowane describe how there was a “renewed effort in providing primary healthcare as one of the strategies towards the achievement of universal health coverage”.

“Too often public health nursing remained ‘invisible’ as a critical component of the global healthcare system,” said Jeri L Bigbee, adjunct professor at the Betty Irene Moore school of nursing, University of California.

“In the face of shrinking resources and competing priorities, public health nurses must assume active and visible leadership roles in promoting the health of populations,” Prof Bigbee said.

Minister of State for Health Alex White told the conference that the Government was committed to a phased universal GP service, and he hoped to “make a good start on this vital project, perhaps as early as in the Budget, due to be announced in mid-October”.

“Public health and community nurses are already providing vital services in general practice and, I hope, and intend, that they can play an enhanced role in this area into the future,” he said.

Ms O’Dowd pointed out that the sector’s role covered the “entire medical spectrum”, from monitoring the health of newborns to supporting the elderly.

ICHN delegate Virginia Pye described a pilot project in the midlands which aims to ensure priority referrals were very well managed. An integrated clinical care team provides one point of contact for GPs seeking public health nursing support in Athlone, Longford and Mullingar, she said.
Full conference proceedings are on ihcn.ie