Nurses demand inquiry into level of Covid-19 infection in health workers

Something is going wrong on the front lines, says INMO’s Phil Ní Sheaghdha

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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Nurses have demanded the establishment of a rapid, independent inquiry into the high levels of coronavirus infection among healthcare workers.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said that as of May 26th, 32 per cent of all coronavirus cases involved healthcare staff.

The union is to meet Minister for Health Simon Harris next week and will press for the Government to establish an inquiry into the issue.

It said figures released previously in April showed that nurses were the largest single group affected by coronavirus.

According to the union, the HSE had said in April that 35 per cent of healthcare workers who had contracted Covid-19 were nurses.

It said if this pattern had continued into May the figures would suggest that more than one in 10 Covid-19 cases in Ireland had been nurses.

The union said it had repeatedly called for the regular publication of detailed statistics on healthcare worker infection to better identify how the virus was being transmitted and to take steps to eliminate infection risk.

In a letter to HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry, the INMO wrote: “We are not satisfied with the level of detail available to date and therefore we advise that, at this stage, it is a matter of such concern that it warrants immediate independent scrutiny. We will now seek that the Minister for Health establishes such a review.”

‘Unacceptably high’

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said on Friday that something was going wrong on the front lines as other countries were seeing far lower rates of infection among healthcare staff.

“Healthcare workers make up a third of Covid-19 cases in Ireland. This is an unacceptably high rate.”

“To fix a problem, you need clear data. We have asked time and time again for the HSE to publish clear, detailed statistics on healthcare worker infection. This could tell us which services are worst hit and where needs focused action.

“We simply have not received a satisfactory response. The State is asking our members to put their lives at risk to provide care. The very least they can do is provide clear information to allay fears and resolve problems.

“A culture of secrecy will only lead to more unnecessary infections.

“The INMO will be meeting with the Minister for Health next week. We will seek urgent, independent scrutiny of healthcare worker infection rates.”

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