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HSE says 20% of the first PPE batch to arrive from China was 'unsuitable'

The HSE also said it wants to increase testing to 4,500 people a day next week.

HSE CEO Paul Reid
HSE CEO Paul Reid
Image: Leon Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

ONE FIFTH OF the first batch of personal protective equipment (PPE) – costing roughly €4 million – delivered from China for use by the HSE didn’t meet the specified requirements. 

HSE CEO Paul Reid said today that the HSE doesn’t want any further delivery of this equipment which doesn’t meet its specifications, while highlighting that a further 15% of the PPE batch which has been arriving in Ireland is only acceptable “if the preferred product isn’t available”. 

It follows the Business Post reporting this morning that four of the ten items assessed in an audit of the PPE delivered were described as “unsuitable” or “not suitable for use” in clinical or other healthcare settings.

Separately, while advice in countries such as the USA is now suggesting people should wear masks in public, the HSE’s Professor Martin Cormican said that while this is being kept under review there isn’t yet convincing evidence that this would help preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Reid opened today’s briefing in Dublin by thanking members of the public for following the social distancing measures, saying lives has been saved.

“It is too early to be complacent and I do urge everyone to stick with it,” he said.

He said testing has been a “very significant challenge”, but revealed that due to work on laboratory capacity, testing will increase from an average of 2,500 to 4,500 a day. Last week, testing did drop to 1,500 a day before rising again, he said. 

Both he and HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor claimed that the number of people tested in Ireland compares favourably with other countries.

Reid also acknowledged the issue around the supply of reagent for testing. He said it was a “week-on-week” challenge and that the HSE was aiming at sourcing more reagent at home and abroad.

On the issues around PPE, he said: “This is an extremely volatile market, and it is going to remain so for some time.”

Even of the 65% of the equipment delivered was deemed to meet the requirements and be suitable for use, Professor Cormican highlighted that some of the equipment wouldn’t be what some Irish healthcare workers are used to.

For instance, cover-all suits had been delivered where the healthcare system here has favoured the use of gowns. 

“It’s unfamiliar to some of our staff,” he said. “ We will need to do some work on training for people to use this product.”

Of the 20% that didn’t meet the requirements, which cost around €4 million, the health officials didn’t say they’d be seeking a refund but added that the equipment could be used in other settings.

Reid said: “That’s the nature of the procurement market we’re in. We’re not in normal times, we’re in war times in terms of procurement.”

Furthermore, some of the PPE that has been donated has also been deemed not to meet the HSE’s requirements. 

The HSE CEO said that more capacity will be added to the health service following a deal with private providers which had been finalised over the weekend.

Reid also said there are currently 1,100 ventilators in Ireland.

He said more had been secured and are being tested, with 250 expected to be delivered to hospitals this week.

On human resource, he said 70,000 applications have been received in response to Ireland’s call for more help. Of these, 27,000 are “self-identified” with relevant work experience and 820 have been progressed over the last week.

In a video message this evening, Minister for Health Simon Harris suggested the HSE had been transparent about the PPE order and expressed his appreciation for the “honesty and straightforwardness” about the issue.

“We’re buying an awful lot of personal protective equipment; that is a really good thing [because] we need to protect people on the front line,” he said.

The minister added that the HSE would tweak future PPE orders to ensure all equipment that it purchased could be used by frontline health workers. 

With reporting from Stephen McDermott, PA

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