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HSE says internal memo referring to 'dirtiest patients' at Dublin nursing home was issued without approval

The memo laid out measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 by setting up “clean” and “dirty” areas.

St Mary’s Hospital in the Pheonix Park, Dublin.
St Mary’s Hospital in the Pheonix Park, Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal

THE HSE HAS said an internal memo at a Dublin nursing home describing patients as ‘dirty’ was issued in error without any formal approval. 

It was reported by the Irish Independent yesterday that a memo sent to staff at St Mary’s Hospital in Dublin laid out measures to try to contain the spread of Covid-19 by setting up “clean” and “dirty” areas.

The memo, it was reported, referred to asymptomatic patients as the “cleanest”, those with suspected cases as “dirty” and confirmed Covid-19 cases as the “dirtiest patients”.

St Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park has seen 11 Covid-19 related deaths in a two-week period. The HSE says it only became aware of the unapproved memo following a media query yesterday.

This morning, HSE National Director of Communications, Paul Connors, said the language used in the memo “is offensive and does not reflect the values” of the HSE.

“Language such as this should never have been contemplated, let alone put on paper and issued,” said Connors. “Sincerest apologies to those justifiably upset by this,” he added. 

Measures laid out in the memo included advice to all staff to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) upon entering a “contaminated zone” with suspected or confirmed cases.

The memo was written after a visit to the facility from Prof Martin Cormican, the HSE national clinical lead on infection control.

In a statement, a HSE spokesperson said the memo was drafted internally within the hospital but was issued “in error without any formal approval” and was not written by Professor Cormican.

“When this memo was brought to management attention it was immediately withdrawn.
The memo and the manner in which in which it was issued is being dealt with by means of an internal HSE process,” they added.

“It is our strong preference that this unapproved memo and the information contained within it is not published,” the spokesperson said.

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