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INMO: 'Extremely worrying' to see Covid-19 outbreaks in hospitals

The union was responding to reports of a Covid-19 outbreak at Beaumont Hospital.

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
Image: Shutterstock/Derick Hudson

Updated Sep 6th 2020, 2:17 PM

FRESH COVID-19 OUTBREAKS in Irish hospitals are “extremely worrying”, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said. 

The comments come following reports of a coronavirus outbreak in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. 

The Sunday Independent reported this morning that Beaumont Hospital is facing an outbreak of Covid-19 that has seen three patients and two staff members test positive for the virus. 

Beaumont Hospital has not responded to a request for comment from TheJournal.ie.

Tony Fitzpatrick, the Director of Industrial Relations at the INMO, told TheJournal.ie that it was “extremely worrying to see outbreaks in hospitals once again”. 

“When there’s an outbreak in a hospital, frontline workers are disproportionately hit,” Fitzpatrick said. 

Healthcare workers make up a third of all Covid-19 cases in Ireland, with many contracting the virus during the worst stages of the pandemic earlier this year. 

Fitzpatrick said that the coming winter months will require robust action from the HSE to ensure the healthcare system can cope. 

“We’ll need a proper, funded plan from the HSE setting out how many extra staff will be hired and how much extra bed capacity will be added,” he said. 

“We still haven’t seen that plan from the HSE and it is crucial that unions and frontline workers are involved in shaping it as soon as possible.”

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One this morning, Laura Durcan, a rheumatology specialist at Beaumont Hospital, said that testing of staff and patients was widespread there. 

“That is something in our hospital which is a success, but should probably be replicated across multiple hospitals,” she said.  

Warning

Earlier today, the HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry, has said it is vital that Ireland avoids an “overwhelmed hospital system” in the weeks to come amid a rising number of Covid-19 cases. 

In an interview with On the Record with Gavan Reilly on Newstalk, Henry said that the approach taken to acute care and elective surgery would undoubtedly look different than it did during the early stages of the pandemic when most services were suspended.

Concerns have been expressed about how a combination of normal seasonal pressures and Covid-19 hospitalisations could add severe pressure on the health system this winter. 

“We cannot face an overwhelmed hospital system and we cannot face the levels of congestion in emergency departments that we saw in previous years,” Henry said. 

He said that the HSE and the government was working to develop a “more nuanced deal” with individual private hospitals this winter to create a “surge capacity” to cope with any increase in Covid-19 cases.  

In recent weeks, the number of coronavirus cases has started to rise, with 231 new cases reported yesterday. 

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Yesterday, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn urged people in Dublin to keep their social contacts as low as possible following rising cases in the county. 

At the start of the crisis, the government signed a €115 million deal with private hospitals which saw the government pay private hospitals to use all of their facilities. 

Most of the capacity ultimately went unused. 

“That first deal was a creature of its time,” Henry said, referring to the scenes witnessed in hospitals in Italy and London before the worst stages of the pandemic in Ireland. 

The HSE is currently working on a deal that would create a panel of private hospitals to offer additional healthcare capacity, after the three-month arrangement with private hospitals at the onset of the crisis came to an end in June.

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