HSE had plan to deal with any risk posed by staff returning from Cheltenham

Decision to press ahead with big racing festival drew widespread criticism

The HSE put in place a plan to deal with any risk posed by healthcare workers returning from the recent Cheltenham Racing Festival whether they were displaying symptoms of Covid-19 or not.

The HSE's national director of human resources, Anne Marie Hoey, in an internal circular to HSE officials on March 15th advised that it was the responsibility of each service "to ensure that an appropriate plan is in place to identify staff who have returned from the Cheltenham Race Festival."

She said healthcare workers with symptoms "should self-isolate and call their local Occupational Health Department for further advice".

Those without symptoms “should contact their local Occupational Health Department prior to returning to work to seek advice and will be subject to passive monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days from date of return.


“If during that period the health care worker becomes symptomatic they should self-isolate and then contact their local Occupational Health Department to arrange for testing.”

There has been widespread criticism that the racing festival, which drew a crowd of 250,000, was allowed to go ahead despite the outbreak of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, a waiver of pension abatement for frontline healthcare staff has been approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Effective until June 30th, the waiver relates to the rehiring of retired former employees to frontline posts to meet demands arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a circular to HSE officials, Ms Hoey outlined that data on each individual rehired by te HSE would be kept to help provide an “aggregate summary of data/costing for the public health sector in respect of rehired public servants to whom the temporary waiver has been applied”.

It is not yet known how many healthcare retirees will return to work on the frontline, given the fact that older people are more impacted by Covid-19 than others.