‘Mistake’ not to include nursing representative on Covid Advisory Group – INMO

New team to replace Nphet and will advise Government on Ireland’s response to Covid

It was a "mistake" for the Government not to include a nursing and midwifery representative on the newly formed Covid Advisory Group (CAG), the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said.

The 20-person team will replace the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) which came to prominence during the coronavirus pandemic over the last two years.

The group will advise the Minister for Health and Government on how best to maximise Ireland’s medium- to long-term preparedness against SARS-CoV-2, among a list of other duties.

INMO deputy general secretary Edward Mathews said: “It is particularly disappointing that there is no nursing or midwifery representative on the new Covid-19 Advisory Group.

“Nurses have been sounding the alarm of what exactly it is like to work in overcrowded hospitals while dealing with a highly transmissible virus for months now.

“Excluding nursing and midwifery from a panel that will advise government going forward shows a distant and unrealistic approach to the pandemic which actually ignores the reality of the situation in the health services.

“Theoretical, research, and on the ground perspectives are essential and underrepresented in the membership of this new body – and will ensure a particular, but not particularly accurate picture as time moves forward.

“The total exclusion of the voice of the largest group of health professionals is a mistake.”

Chair

The outgoing chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan is to chair the group announced last week.

Many of its members will be familiar to the public, having played key roles during the pandemic.

They include Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy CMO; the HSE's chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry; Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group; and Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory.

New figures include Luke O’Neill, Professor of Biochemistry and Immunology and Professor Clíona O’Farrelly, Chair in Comparative Immunology, both of whom became high profile commentators on the spread of and response to Covid.

Other expert members include Prof Pete Lunn of the ESRI Behavioural Research Unit; Prof Mary Horgan, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and Prof Paddy Mallon, consultant in infectious diseases.

Prof Máirín Ryan, chair of the Health Information and Quality Authority's Covid-19 Expert Advisory Group, has also been drafted to the group, as have Dr Eimear Brannigan, chair of the Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control; Dr Derval Igoe of the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre; GP Dr Tadhg Crowley; consultant microbiologist Dr Anne Rose Prior; Professor of physical chemistry John Wenger; Dr Anne Moore, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry; and Fergal Goodman, head of the health protection division at the Department of Health.

A representative of the Department of the Taoiseach has yet to be confirmed.

Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly said while the number of hospitalisations is now falling, Covid-19 remains a threat with "no way to know for sure what lies ahead".