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Dublin: 1 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020

Healthcare workers 'at risk over Irish failure to implement EU laws'

ICTU says the EU’s directive on ‘sharps’ – requiring medical needles to retract after use – was to become Irish law by today.

Image: NorGal via Shutterstock

TRADE UNIONS have claimed that the health of Irish healthcare workers has been put at risk by Ireland’s failure to implement an EU directive on the use of medical needles.

The ‘Sharps Directive’ bans the practice of ‘recapping’ for medical needles, and also requires improved safety precautions and safer working procedures for healthcare workers who deal with such needles.

Specifically, it requires the use of devices where the needle is retracted or shielded – meaning a needlepoint should not be exposed until it is immediately used.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions says member states were due to adopt the directive by today – the eve of International Nurses Day.

ICTU’s legal affairs officer Esther Lynch said needlestick injuries among healthcare workers were ‘notoriously’ unreported – and that workers were injured anywhere between 1,000 and 6,000 times a year.

A 2011 report by the INMO found that one in three nurses had suffered needlestick injuries – a phenomenon which, Lynch said, illustrated how dangerous exposed needles were.

“A sharp contaminated by infected blood can transmit more than 20 diseases including hepatitis B, C and HIV,” she said.

“Victims of needle stick injuries often suffer many months of anguish and uncertainty as they await results. There are also significant health effects associated with post injury prophylactic medications and treatment.”

ICTU has called on jobs minister Richard Bruton to implement Irish laws, giving legal effect to the EU directive, without delay.

“The Health & Safety Committee of Congress is recommending the establishment of Needlestick & Sharps injury prevention committees to oversee the implementation of the Directive,” Lynch said.

“These committees should include representatives from all levels, employers and unions including health and safety representatives, occupational health, risk management, purchasing, housekeeping, infection control, employee education and training.”

Read: INMO chief dismisses ‘man who cried wolf’ suggestions on strike action

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Gavan Reilly

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