The rollout of Covid-19 vaccines started in a “haphazard manner” and was not focused on the locations or workplaces with the highest infections, TDs and Senators will be told on Tuesday.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) also raises concerns about a "sharp increase" in hospital-acquired infections and a "lack of routine testing" of staff in hospitals in its submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Health.
The submission comes ahead of a meeting of the committee on Tuesday where TDs and Senators are to hear from the INMO and doctors on protection and support for Covid-19 frontline healthcare workers.
The INMO submission outlines how the organisation was critical of the rollout of vaccinations for healthcare workers as it commenced.
It says there is clear data available to show where the virus is spreading both geographically and in terms of the healthcare workforce but “it appears this data was not used in planning the vaccination strategy and as a result, distribution did not strictly follow the virus’s trajectory”.
The submission says: “Instead, the rollout commenced in a haphazard manner, not focused on the locations or workplaces with the highest infections or geographically bordering areas with high community infection.”
It also says that cases of Covid-19 among healthcare workers “continues to rise” and it is a “gravely concerning situation” that “threatens healthcare services’s ability to provide essential care”.
The statement says that as of February 2nd there were 24,730 detected cases of Covid-19 among healthcare workers. It adds that antibody studies conducted in several Irish hospitals “clearly show that this is a conservative figure, and the number of infections was higher”.
The INMO is calling for an independent expert investigation “as to why so many healthcare workers . . . have contracted the Covid-19 virus”.
It also provides details of a survey it conducted of its members on the psychological impact of Covid-19 last August with more than 90 per cent at that time reporting being “mentally exhausted”.
The INMO submission says the recent surge in the virus has led to a “sharp increase” in hospital-acquired infection. It says there must be a “robust, national testing and tracing system in place, one that can withstand any future surges in all health care settings”.
Its submission claims “the lack of routine testing in acute hospitals has been a major failure on the part of the HSE and must be addressed”.
It says that in the last two weeks, the HSE conducted serial PCR testing in “only three acute hospitals” and adds “it is impossible to determine how to mitigate the risk when not testing the potential asymptomatic population”.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) is also expected to raise the issue of routine testing of healthcare workers (HCWs) on Tuesday. Its statement says international literature "supports mass testing of both symptomatic and asymptomatic HCWs [healthcare workers] to reduce the risk nosocomial transmission [hospital acquired infections]".
It says that the NHS in the UK tests all patient-facing staff for Covid-19 twice a week using home antigen test kits and those who test positive are tested again using PCR.