HSE says health staff may have contracted Covid-19 in ‘avoidable’ cases

Diagnoses of patients with symptoms were not made promptly at times

No deaths and eleven further cases of Covid-19 have been reported by Dr Ronan Glynn acting Chief Medical Officer at the latest NPHET briefing. Video: RTE News Now

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There were some “avoidable” cases in which healthcare workers may have become infected with Covid-19, the HSE has said.

In a new submission to the Oireachtas committee on the pandemic, the HSE said there were “some incidents in which patients did have clear clinical features suggestive of Covid-19 but the diagnosis was not considered or made promptly, resulting in avoidable healthcare worker [and patient] exposure”.

The HSE said that “anecdotally, the impression is that the greatest risk to healthcare workers from exposure to infected patients was in relation to patients where Covid-19 was not suspected or confirmed in a timely manner”.

However, it said, it was now known that many patients with Covid-19, especially frail older people, do not have fever, cough or shortness of breath.

“In a number of instances such patients were not identified in the congregated healthcare setting, resulting in significant exposure for healthcare workers who were not alert to the risk of exposure and who, therefore, were not in a position to take specific additional IPC [infection and prevention control] measures.

“Although limited, hospital data exists to suggest that once a more robust process for identifying patients with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 was put in place, that there was a sharp fall in healthcare worker infection,” the HSE said.

The HSE submission, made in recent days, said as of June 27th, healthcare workers accounted for 8,260 of the 25,874 Covid -19 cases reported, or 31.9 per cent.

Infection rate

Last month, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) told the committee that Ireland had the highest rate of infection from coronavirus of all health workers globally.

The HSE also told the committee that “price gouging” – often involving middlemen seeking exorbitant prices – had been a feature of the “unprecedented” market for personal protective equipment (PPE) at the height of the pandemic.

It said this included the creation of secondary markets where ownership deeds changed hands numerous times before they reached the end buyer – often a hospital system or local government – at a hugely inflated price.

Health sources said the HSE had been approached on one occasion by middlemen offering PPE at high prices but it had not bought the items concerned.