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Dr Colm Henry Gareth Chaney

'The language is unacceptable': HSE officials criticise memo which described patients as 'dirty' and 'clean'

The HSE acknowledged that the memo “caused a lot of upset” which it called “really unfortunate”.

HSE OFFICIALS HAVE said it is “a matter of regret” after a memo describing patients as “dirty” was issued without any formal approval at a Dublin nursing home.

It was reported on Friday 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. 

Speaking this morning, National Director of Community Operations David Walsh said the language used in the memo was “unacceptable”.

“It is really a matter of regret that any patient or their family would perceive from that [memo] that they were being treated in a differentiated way,” said Walsh. 

The HSE acknowledged that the memo “caused a lot of upset” which it called “really unfortunate”.

In medicine, “dirty” and “clean” are used informally in the context of infectious cases and to differentiate hospital wards. 

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said today the use of such language has “no place” in medicine. 

Measures laid out in the staff 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”.

Earlier today, HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid said that 4,000 tests have been completed this weekend between staff and residents in long-term care settings, which are a priority for testing.

While testing facilities are operating smoothly, Reid said that acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers remains “challenging” due to the extraordinary global demand.

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