Coronavirus: 'Close contact' health workers called back to frontline due to staff shortages

Nurses in a hospital intensive care unit. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images
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Vivienne Clarke

Healthcare workers deemed close contacts of a positive Covid-19 case but who are not showing symptoms of the disease have been called back to work due to staff shortages.

Anne O’Connor, the chief operations officer of the HSE, admitted that health workers in this position were being called back to work before completing 14 days self-isolation. This was being used as “a last resort”, she said.

She said these staff members were tested and then closely monitored by occupational health.

Responding to a question about absenteeism in the health service on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms O’Connor said staff shortages were “challenging”. Between acute hospitals, support services and community services there were more than 7,000 workers absent because of Covid-19, she said.

She called on anyone who can help frontline workers to get to work to do so and said every member of staff was needed on duty.


Staff who were facing difficulties with childcare were being helped where possible, she added.

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Ms O’Connor said that the health service was dependent on moving people out of hospital back home or into another facility. All were tested on discharge, but if they tested positive options outside of hospitals had to be utilised as it was not an option to keep everyone in hospitals.

It comes as almost 1,700 Covid-19 patients were in hospital on Tuesday evening, including 160 in intensive care, more than the peak set last spring of 155. One in three hospital patients this month has been aged under 65.

A total of 3,086 confirmed cases were reported on Tuesday, the lowest daily figure since New Year’s Day.

More cases were recorded in Galway than in Dublin, despite it having a fraction of the capital’s population. In Monaghan, the worst affected county at present, one in every 38 people has the virus.

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