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Nurses are being asked to return to work before self-isolation period is over; INMO criticised HSE policy

DUBLIN: Nurses are being asked to return to work earlier from self-isolation due to staff shortages in hospitals. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has demanded for the isolation of health workers in all hospitals across the country.

Joe Hoolan, industrial relations officer with the INMO said it is HSE’s national policy to recall nurses who are isolated but do not show any symptoms. Mr. Hoolan warned that staff may enter the job as asymptomatic carriers.

He said it continues in almost all hospitals in the country. “Only Naas Hospital, which had a serious outbreak, has decided to let nurses remain in self-isolation for the required time,” he said. At Naas Hospital, 87 staff members are not working because they are infected with COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone infected with the virus.

He says that the recall of workers who need to be isolated will drive all employees around them into self-isolation. “It is not a policy that is working and we must make sure staff are safe before they can return to work,” he said.

Mr. Hoolan said that those returning to work are not being tested for the virus, but instead their temperatures are being checked twice a day.

The HSE document, called ‘Derogation for the Return to Work of Healthcare Workers who are Essential for Critical Workers’, states that while healthcare workers may be recalled if they are essential, a detailed local risk assessment is to be carried out in relation to the risk to patient safety due to the lack of essential health care workers. This process should include an evaluation of the available staff that can be redeployed within the service.

It also states that personnel recall should only occur when all attempts have been made to hire alternative health employees with the necessary skills. “Despite these actions, an area cannot be staffed safely or a critical skill set to provide critical/essential services is unavailable,” it says.

INMO’s comments come as Ireland’s death toll from COVID-19 crossed 2,000 yesterday and another 12 people died of the virus. A further 379 new COVID-19 cases were also confirmed in the country yesterday.

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