The Health Services Executive (HSE) chief clinical officer has said the healthcare system will be in “serious distress” for asymptomatic, vaccinated workers who are close contacts to return to work, said the positivity in the community. Rate stands. at 60 percent.
The scale of the disruption being experienced by healthcare was “unprecedented” and HSE is trying to protect its services, Dr Colm Henry told Newstalk Breakfast on Friday.
Under the abusive measures, health workers essential to critical services, who are identified as close contacts, can return to work with approval from management if they are asymptomatic and have received a booster vaccine within three months. Or have recovered from Kovid infection.
Asymptomatic workers who have been fully vaccinated but have not received a booster may, in exceptional circumstances, return with approval from the Office of the National Director of Acute Operations or the Office of the National Director of Community Operations.
Dr Henry said the situation was “very difficult” from an HSE perspective, with a 60 per cent community positivity rate and the fact that 25 per cent of Covid cases in 2021 were between Christmas and New Year’s.
Chief Operating Officer Anne O’Connor told RT Radio’s Morning Ireland that the staff could not be redeployed to other areas, but efforts were being made to send them where they were needed most.
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The latest official figures as of December 31 showed that 8,000 healthcare workers were not at work because they had either tested positive for COVID or were in close contact. He said the figure is likely to be in the range of 14,000 to 15,000.
This was “very challenging” for healthcare – not just hospitals, but for general practices, community services and disability services, Ms O’Connor said.
He said that even the discharge pathways for patients were proving difficult for hospitals as home support and step-down facilities are under pressure due to staff shortage due to Covid.
The ambulance service was also under pressure as 260 workers were absent on Thursday, he said.
Ms O’Connor said the priority would be based on clinical need. Hospitals will continue to do as much as they can and will not be a “blanket stop” of alternative services, he said, adding that emergency care and time-sensitive care are “things we have to do”.
Asked when the portal for recording positive antigen tests will open, Ms O’Connor said she expects it to open next week.
Meanwhile, Dr Marie Favier of the National Public Health Emergency Team said a possible easing of restrictions should be seen “quite soon”.
Dr Favier said general practitioners are concerned that critical non-Covid diagnoses are being missed and that restrictions on healthcare and society will be lifted “reasonably soon”, but not completely, “to get healthcare workers back to work, society”. to work when we have a better understanding of what those figures mean”.
“There is always a balance in healthcare with prioritizing Covid care and then leaving non-Covid care behind. And you always have to do what is most beneficial and what gives the greatest health benefits,” she said.
“The last thing anyone wants to do is go backwards . . . but hopefully we are starting to see some glimmers of light,” said Dr. Favier.