There are currently 270 Consultant Histopathologists employed across the HSE.
In preparation for the impact of COVID-19, my Department worked with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government which established a COVID-19 Excess Mortality National Oversight Group. A plan was developed by this inter-agency group to guide the implementation of an effective and appropriate national system for managing mortality, informed by the need for compassion and care for the families affected.
Key membership of this group included the HSE, the Office of the State Pathologist, the Coroner Service and the Faculty of Pathology, to ensure issues arising with post-mortem and funeral services were addressed to minimise the impact of deaths on families.
My Department and the HSE worked with the Department of Justice and the Coroner Service to minimise any delays for families associated with post-mortem requirements. Following these discussions, the HSE advise that there has been a significant reduction in delays associated with post-mortems in hospitals.
The HSE put in place a range of additional initiatives across hospitals to ensure end of life care in response to COVID-19. This included developing special visiting passes for relatives to visit dying family members, enabling virtual visiting services and ensuring access to appropriate chaplaincy support for patients.
The HSE is co-ordinating a comprehensive psychosocial response to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and to support the overall wellbeing, resilience and mental health of our population.
To provide additional bereavement support, the HSE in conjunction with Irish Hospice Foundation has established a National Bereavement Support Line which is operational 5 days a week. Information on this line has been made available through a variety of channels including radio adverts, HSE and IHF websites and distributed to all hospitals, nursing homes and long stay facilities.