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Answering Ireland’s call: pathology during the COVID-19 pandemic
  1. Hilary Humphreys1,
  2. Louise Burke2,
  3. Karina O'Connell3,
  4. Mary Keogan4
  1. 1 Department of Clinical Microbiology, Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2 Department of Pathology, Cork University Hospital/University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  3. 3 Department of Microbiology, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  4. 4 Department of Immunology, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Hilary Humphreys, Department of Clinical Microbiology, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin D09 YD60, Ireland; hhumphreys{at}

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The unprecedented healthcare demands, generated in response to the novel SARS-CoV-2 pathogen, were met by a resilient pathology service in Ireland that supported all aspects of patient management.

As in the UK and elsewhere, pathology departments in Ireland include the disciplines of histopathology, microbiology, haematology, immunology and chemical pathology, with delivery of these services (to a population of 4.9 million) being largely hospital based. They are funded directly or indirectly by the publically funded health service executive (HSE) with private hospital laboratories also contributing, especially for those who pay health insurance.

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic was largely led by a national public health emergency team (NPHET), established by the Irish government and chaired by the chief medical officer. Throughout the pandemic, this group of experts continually monitored events and provided independent advice to government on the public health measures required. Key to the coordinated laboratory response was the establishment of the COVID-19 Laboratory Taskforce (CLT), established in April 2020 that included: experts in senior health service management, emergency management and procurement, medical and scientific input, expertise in data analytics, and modelling with daily reports. This group augmented the existing national communication structures in Ireland for pathology services including the National Clinical Programme for Pathology (N-CPP, established in 2011 to lead the delivery of pathology services in publicly funded Irish laboratories), the Clinical Programme in Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control (in existence for over a decade), the first NPHET (established in 2017 to address the spread of carbapenamase-producing Enterobacterales)1 and the Faculty of Pathology (established in 1981) at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

As in society generally, the necessary infection and prevention and control (IPC) measures, for example, social distancing, presented challenges in laboratories with restricted workspace. Rationalisation of services was, however, undertaken to focus on the …

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  • Handling editor Runjan Chetty.

  • Contributors HH conceived the idea of the paper and led in the drafting. LB, KO'C and MK were involved in all decisions on content, reviewed all drafts, contributed aspects relevant to their discipline and expertise, and all authors reviewed and agreed the final draft.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests HH has received funding for research from Pfizer and Astellas in recent years and has also received a consulting fee from Pfizer. MK has received conference sponsorship from Takeda, and a speaker’s honoraria from Biogen. LB and KO'C have no conflicts of interest to declare.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.