Opposition questions HSE on shortages of personal protective equipment

Flight from China en route with 11 million masks, one million goggles, 500,000 gowns

Opposition politicians have questioned the HSE on emerging shortages in the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.

HSE officials updated opposition parties on Wednesday morning and said that they are trying to get a limited supply of equipment to high priority areas. Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said that a flight is due to land from China this coming Sunday with 11 million masks, one million goggles and 500,000 gowns.

He said that the normal full year spend on personal protective equipment will rise from €15 million to €240 million.

Mr Donnelly said the issue of a lack of protective equipment is being raised repeatedly with him by healthcare workers and that he believes the HSE have now admitted that “there is a problem”.


He said officials told him that the supply of the protective equipment is “very tight in individual settings and for certain types of kit”.

Change in testing

The issue of the change of criteria for testing was also discussed at the meeting. Patients must now display two symptoms rather than one in order to avail of testing for the virus, also known as Covid-19. Mr Donnelly said that the backlog of tests now stands at 24,000.

Mr Donnelly said he has also heard anecdotally from dentists who are concerned that they have not yet been asked to close down. The National Public Health Emergency Team will examine proposals to set up “emergency hubs” for those who need emergency dental work with further advice expected on this in the coming days.

It comes after MMA fighter Conor McGregor shared messages he exchanged with the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in which he pledges to personally purchase € 1 million worth of PPE to be donated to hospitals.

Senior doctors who are working in St James’s Hospital in Dublin have also made an urgent appeal seeking donations of personal protective equipment, asking those in the pharma and food industry to consider donating any spare equipment.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times