NPHET insists on 'commitment to transparency' in response to concerns

The Department of Health says that it is "committed to transparency" on the decisions and membership of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on Covid-19.
NPHET insists on 'commitment to transparency' in response to concerns

The Department of Health says that it is "committed to transparency" on the decisions and membership of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on Covid-19.

Questions were raised in the Dáil last Thursday by Labour leader Alan Kelly. The Tipperary TD asked the Taoiseach a range of questions about the growth in membership of the NPHET since its formation and the lack of detailed minutes being published from NPHET meetings.

“Who is NPHET ultimately accountable to?” he asked. “Who makes the final decisions? Do NPHET have to consult with you or the Minister for Health before making formal announcements that affect all the citizens of this country? I presume they do. But how does that happen?”

He said that there was "a difference" between minutes and notes, which are currently published for NPHET meetings up to the end of March.

In response to queries from The Irish Examiner, the Department of Health insisted that it is committed to transparently presenting the minutes of meetings, but says that this process is time consuming.

"The standing final item of [each] meeting allows for all members to review actions arising from the meeting and ensure that all present are in agreement. These actions are subsequently adopted by the NPHET and form the basis of letters which are prepared immediately afterwards, setting out the recommendations arising, to the Minister for Health and to the HSE on the same day.

"The NPHET currently holds scheduled meetings twice a week and may meet more frequently if needed. In this context, NPHET meeting minutes and agendas, are being made available online as fast as possible.

"The Department of Health and the NPHET are absolutely committed to transparency and are providing daily media briefings to this end, in addition to meeting our public service obligations to continue serving the political system, respond to queries and concerns from the public and and proactively communicate via traditional and social media."

The Department added that the membership of NPHET had grown as the response to Covid-19 has evolved, but takes in members from across the Department, the HSE, the HSPC, HIQA and the HPRA, as well as across the medical profession in Ireland.

It said that the membership may grow as Ireland’’s response to Covid-19 progresses.

"Given the nature of the work involved, the need for a timely assessment and response and the flexibility in terms of the disease progression, the membership of the NPHET has evolved since January and may change further over time in line with the expertise required across the response."

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