Plans to double the number of public health staff - whose job it is to investigate and control diseases, including Covid-19 - will be announced later today. 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is also due to commit to giving consultant status to public health doctors who currently get paid less than other specialists.

There are currently 254 public health experts including doctors, nurses and scientists working in eight regional centres across the country. spe

Their job is to monitor the emergence of notifiable diseases and get them under control. 

They have played a critical role in managing outbreaks and surge capacity, as well as more complex contact tracing.

But since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic there have been concerns that they are overworked and struggling to meet demand. 

Even before the outbreak, public health doctors had complained that they were not given consultant status and therefore were paid significantly less than other medical specialists. 

The Cabinet yesterday agreed to change legislation to remove any barriers to increasing their pay. 

RTÉ News understands that Minister Donnelly has secured €16m in funding to hire 250 more public health specialists - essentially doubling the workforce. 

He will tell the Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 Response later today that recruitment will get under way in the coming weeks.