HSE seeks help with contact tracing but fewer public service staff available

Department of Public Expenditure says not as many personnel free for Covid redeployment as last spring

The contact tracing call centre in UCD. Photograph: Enda O’Dowd

The contact tracing call centre in UCD. Photograph: Enda O’Dowd

 

There are fewer public service personnel available for redeployment to other areas during the current heightened Covid-19 restrictions than was the case last spring, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has said.

The department said recently there have been approaches from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to have staff from the civil service re-assigned to assist with contact tracing.

It said the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection had also sought additional personnel as part of the Government’s temporary re-assignment initiative.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said on this occasion there were fewer staff available for redeployment than was the case last spring.

It said it was important to note that unlike during the first period of restrictions in March, April and May this year, on this occasion “in the main all areas across the civil and public service are now back to being fully operational”.

“This decreases the available staff pool, in comparison with last spring ,” the department said this week.

In March, the Government announced a scheme under which civil and public service bodies would release staff who were not working in roles that were deemed as essential by their organisation at that time.

At the time it said that temporary assignments of personnel were urgently required to deal with resourcing challenges, particularly in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection – which was handling hundreds of thousands of applications for pandemic unemployment payments – and the HSE.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said this week that the temporary assignment policy and scheme, which was developed to manage immediate and significant demands in terms of assignments to the HSE and other departments and offices, would continue to operate.

“The Public Appointment Service, who are the administrators of the scheme, may periodically issue detailed requests to organisations seeking employees who are deemed to be releasable in the context of their business continuity plan for the temporary assignment scheme. Recently, within the Civil Service, there have been further requests from the HSE (contact tracing) and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (telephone queries relating to applications for social welfare payments). All organisations also continue to redeploy staff internally as appropriate.”