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88% of healthcare workers with Covid-19 got the virus at work

The INMO wants Covid-19 to be classed as a personal injury under health and safety legislation.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Juice Flair

Updated 7.21pm

THE VAST MAJORITY of healthcare workers with Covid-19 contracted the virus while at work, according to new figures.

Of the 8,018 healthcare workers reported to have the virus as of 30 May, excluding cases which are unknown or under investigation:

  • 88% got the virus in a healthcare setting as staff
  • 4% got the virus from contact with a confirmed case
  • 3% got the virus from travel
  • 3% got the virus from community transmission
  • 1% got the virus from a healthcare setting as patients

The figures were provided by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) to the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Of the 8,018 cases, 2,551 (32%) were under investigation without a known source of transmission.

Overall, healthcare workers make up a third of all positive Covid-19 cases in Ireland. Nurses make up a third of those – the largest single group of workers infected.

As of 30 May, seven healthcare workers have died from the virus, 1,515 (19%) have recovered, and 4,823 are still ill (60%). About 20% of cases have a currently unknown status.

The INMO said, following a meeting this week with Minister for Health Simon Harris, it has received a commitment that these figures will be published weekly.

Personal injury 

To combat the high rate of infection among healthcare workers, the INMO is calling for three policy changes:

  • Amend regulations to class Covid-19 as a personal injury under health and safety legislation
  • Facilitate healthcare workers who come into unprotected close contact with Covid-19 to self-isolate for 14 days, without exemptions
  • All healthcare workers – not just those in nursing homes or clusters – be provided with regular Covid-19 testing

Speaking today, INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said that one in three Covid-19 cases in Ireland are healthcare workers and one in 10 are nurses.

“These figures show the vast majority have caught the virus at work.

“This figure cannot simply be accepted as normal. We need to tighten procedures and test more to ensure that frontline staff don’t get the virus they are fighting. This isn’t just about PPE, it’s about policy too,” Ní Sheaghdha stated. 

In response to the INMO’s statement, the Department of Health said: “The Minister for Health and his Department have had constructive engagement with unions on this topic and strongly acknowledge the unique work of healthcare workers in meeting the challenges of COVID-19. 

“The protection of healthcare workers remains a top priority of the Department of Health during this emergency.

“Following the meetings between the Minister and unions it was agreed that a weekly report on healthcare workers would be made available by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

“As more information becomes available on the transmission of COVID-19, the Department of Health will continue to review and, where necessary, amend policies that are currently in place to deal with this evolving public health emergency.”

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Órla Ryan

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