Covid-19 outbreak leaves 45 Naas hospital staff ‘unavailable’

INMO says non-essential care should be suspended while situation addressed

Calls have been made for an immediate suspension of non-essential services at Naas General Hospital in Co Kildare following an outbreak of Covid-19 among frontline nursing staff.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) on Friday night said 35 nurses and 10 healthcare assistants were unavailable for work due to either being diagnosed with the virus or being a close contact.

A spokesman for the union said the situation had only emerged in the last couple of days and that it has had meetings with hospital management to try to address the problem.

Frontline staff at the hospital are due to be tested for the virus to detect any asymptomatic or as yet undetected cases to garner a more accurate picture of how far it has spread.


In the meantime, the INMO has written to hospital management seeking an immediate cessation of all elective day surgery and outpatient work to allow for the safe staffing of inpatient rosters.

Absolutely necessary

It has asked the hospital and the HSE to inform the public of the situation and advise they only attend where absolutely necessary.

All catchment area GPs should also be advised of the “crisis” and send referrals to other locations, it said.

"It is unacceptable that the hospital remains fully operational while staffing levels are at such a critical level," said INMO industrial relations officer Joe Hoolan.

“We need decisive action to avoid putting patients and staff at risk. Our members have grave concerns regarding significant staffing deficits this weekend and next week. There is an immense risk to safe patient care while staff struggle to maintain the service in unworkable conditions.”

Mr Hoolan said all frontline staff are to be tested for Covid-19 immediately.

“In view of this, all non-essential services must pause for a minimum of seven days. Patients and staff welfare must be the absolute priority at this time,” he said.

Naas General Hospital is a 243 bed acute public hospital serving the catchment area of Kildare and West-Wicklow. The INMO stated that it is currently running at about 58 per cent of capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions.

However, it said the 35 frontline nurses affected account for about 10 per cent of a staffing roster of 320, not all of whom are based on wards. The majority of care at the hospital is related to unscheduled inpatient admissions through the emergency department.

In a statement the hospital confirmed the issue and said an outbreak control team had been convened.

“The outbreak is being managed to ensure hospital services can continue in a safe environment,” it said in a statement on Friday night.

“Plans have been developed to support continuity of services and guide senior management to identify the level of impact on service and staff and is being monitored on an ongoing basis against the levels of activity into the weekend.”

Stressing the importance of adhering to public health advice, it said visiting hospitals is not permitted except when on compassionate grounds.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times