Surge in healthcare staff off work for Covid-19 issues

Surge In Healthcare Staff Off Work For Covid-19 Issues Surge In Healthcare Staff Off Work For Covid-19 Issues
The number of healthcare workers absent for Covid-related issues has surged in recent weeks. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
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The number of healthcare staff off work for Covid-related issues surged to almost five times its summer level in recent weeks, internal HSE documents show.

The number of healthcare workers absent due to Covid-19 stood at 1,697 on October 21st, the same day Level 5 restrictions were introduced, up from a mid-summer low point of 352 on July 8th.

On August 26th, as the second wave was beginning to gain momentum, 496 workers were off work. Two weeks later that had almost doubled to 957.

During September and early October the rate remained relatively stable, with 1,155 and 1,115 workers absent on September 23rd and October 7th.

However, a second increase of 582 workers absent was then recorded on October 21st, bringing the total Covid-19-related absenteeism across the health service to 1,697.

The data, seen by The Irish Times in an internal HSE Covid-19 situational report, may also be an underestimate, the report notes.



Meanwhile, hospitals used a “last resort” plan for overcrowding in emergency departments more than 1,900 times in the year to the end of September, new figures show.

Full Capacity Protocol (FCP) is the final step in a hospital’s escalation plans and involves additional beds being placed on wards and in hallways.

In some hospitals the protocol is being used more than once every three days.

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University Hospital Waterford used the measure on 208 days between September 2019 and September 2020, according to HSE figures obtained by the Irish Patients’ Association.

University Hospital Limerick had the second highest rate of protocol usage at 184 days, followed by University Hospital Galway (176 days).

Stephen McMahon, of the Irish Patients’ Association, told The Irish Times of his concern at how frequently the measure was being used. He likened the protocol to Level 5 in the Government’s Living with Covid-19 roadmap.

“It is a serious event and one that should be an almost never event,” he said.

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