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INMO backs decision to publish ethnicity data for healthcare workers who contract Covid-19

Data from the UK suggests that BAME healthcare workers were more likely to die from Covid-19.

The data on ethnic minority healthcare workers and Covid-19 was only published this month.
The data on ethnic minority healthcare workers and Covid-19 was only published this month.
Image: Shutterstock/hxdbzxy

DATA ON THE ethnicity and the place of birth of healthcare workers who test positive for Covid-19 is now available for the first time, in a move that’s been welcome by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO). 

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), as part of its weekly report on Covid-19 and healthcare workers, now publishes data on healthcare workers’ ethnicity and their place of birth. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a HSE spokesperson said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, surveillance data has been collected by the contact tracing programme. This programme was set up to respond to a high volume of calls and rapidly identify contacts of cases.

“Therefore only a minimum surveillance data set was collected on cases of Covid-19 at the height of the pandemic.

“Additional surveillance variables were added for all Covid-19 cases in June, including ethnicity and country of birth, in line with Public Health guidance,” the spokesperson said.

This means that data on healthcare worker ethnicity and Covid-19 is only available from June onwards. 

While the HPSC and the HSE collected data since June, it was only published for the first time on 18 September. 

The decision to collect such data comes following evidence from the UK that those from BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. 

Data from the British Medical Association showed that while 21% of NHS staff are BAME, 63% of the healthcare workers who died were from such backgrounds. 

Ireland currently has no data to assess whether black, Asian or ethnic minority healthcare staff faced a disproportionate impact here.

Latest data shows that since between 8-21 September, at least 24% of Covid-19 cases among healthcare workers were among non-white staff. 

However, only 222 cases of Covid-19 were recorded among healthcare workers during this period meaning it’s too early to determine definitive trends. 

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‘Improve protection’

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, INMO General Secretary, told TheJournal.ie that last year, nearly half of all nurses and midwives registering to work here came from outside of the EU.

“We know from the UK, US and Australia that there is now growing evidence that certain ethnic groups have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19,” she said.

“As we get more data over time, we can see if and where problems are arising. Using this and other data collected, we can then use the evidence to act and improve protections for frontline staff.” 

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