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Spread of COVID-19 among health workers in Ireland continues to be alarming

DUBLIN: The COVID-19 infection is so prevalent among nurses that it is doubtful whether even the sanitiser and face mask used are of good quality.

The coronavirus was confirmed at 550 staff over the weekend. Trade unions have called for adequate security for health workers. Tony Fitzpatrick, the chairman of the Nation Joint Council group, a joint organisation of health workers, wrote to HSE requesting this.

Meanwhile, 130 staff at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) remain off work due to COVID-19. Naas General Hospital has 87 staff out for the same reason. Due to this, emergency services have been suspended.

The letter explains that HSE does not seem to be doing much to provide safety for health workers in the workplace. The union points out that the significant increase in infections among health care workers is a sign that health workers do not have adequate protections. According to the letter, health workers are at high risk of contracting the virus.

The hospital management explains that there are no problems with the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). However, HSE notifications regarding the priority of use remain.

The trade union also raised the question of whether products such as face masks supplied by HSE are under constant inspection to ensure that they are suitable for medical staff. The union reiterated that the health authority must confirm the effectiveness of the ViraPro hand sanitiser distributed to hospitals. This hand sanitiser was withdrawn from hospitals and schools last month after the Department of Agriculture expressed concern that users of this sanitiser could be affected by headaches, respiratory problems, dermatitis, eye irritation and vomiting.

However, HSE has not yet provided any information to the officials who use it. The unions demanded that the sanitiser be made effective. The letter also said that it was mysterious that HSE had not yet confirmed whether the product was effective.

SIPTU leader Kevin Figgis said the growing infection among health workers is serious. “Healthcare workers are fatigued. The measures and policies in place have to be reviewed. They are not working and this is shown in the spiralling infection rate,” he said.

COVID-19 in health workers… Government figures

The number of self-isolated staff increased from 450 to 550 due to their close association with the COVID-19 cases. About 100 people left the service in a single day. Since March, the virus has affected more than 11,000 health workers and eight have died. Of the 69,472 COVID cases in Ireland as of last Friday, 11,565 (16.65%) were health workers, according to the latest report from the Health Protective Surveillance Centre.

Of the 5,384 newly reported cases in the last two weeks, 701 (13.02%) were health workers. From August to early November, 2,826 health workers were infected with the coronavirus. Of these, 2,042 are under 55 years of age. The vast majority of them are between the ages of 24-54. 737 were aged between 24-34, 628 were aged between 35-44 and 677 were aged between 45-54.

Of the 2,826 people diagnosed since August, 663 are nurses and 669 are health care assistants. Up to 860 of these workers contracted the virus from a close contact, 836 of them were infected by work colleagues and 85 others were infected by COVID-positive patients.

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