Covid contact tracing centre at UCD to be wound down

Function will be subsumed into HSE’s long-term contact tracing facility

One of the first contact tracing centres set up during the Covid-19 pandemic is to be wound down and its function relocated from University College Dublin to a Health Service Executive facility in Dublin.

The UCD centre, which was established in March 2020 and was run by Prof Mary Codd and Prof Patrick Wall of the university's school of public health, physiotherapy and sport science, was "vital" and carried out some of the complex and sensitive cases of Covid-19 tracing, including the "specialised queue", the HSE said in a statement.

Its work will now be subsumed into the long-term contact tracing function being developed by the HSE. A health service spokeswoman said the capacity would be maintained at its current level with staff from the contact tracing centre, who work for recruitment company CPL, moving to Heuston South Quarter.

About 60 whole-time roles are moving from UCD, part of the 920 staff currently working on the health service’s contact tracing programme, Niamh O’Beirne, HSE lead on contact tracing, said. The agreement with UCD governing the operation of the centre in Belfield expires in August.

Ms Codd said it had been a “privilege to be engaged” in the contact tracing programme. “Clearly it has been busy and all absorbing; I can’t pay sufficiently high compliments to the team, the staff, my colleagues, UCD and the school [of public health].”

Ms O'Beirne said the HSE and the staff in the contact management programme were "extremely grateful" to the university, to professors Codd and Wall and the head of the school, Prof Catherine Blake. She thanked them and other UCD staff "for the exceptional support, relentless dedication and resounding impact they have made to Ireland's response to this pandemic". The HSE said it is "hopeful" that all the staff currently located at the college campus in south Dublin will transfer to Heuston South Quarter.

"We remain committed to ensuring the ongoing provision of this essential service which has been delivered by teams around Ireland to the highest standard since March 2020," Ms O'Beirne said.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times