WHO envoy commends Govt efforts to cut healthcare professionals’ infection risk

david nabarro WHO

Level of Covid-19 infection among healthcare professionals warrants continued investigation —WHO Special Envoy

Continued investigation of the level of infection among healthcare professionals is needed, according to World Health Organization (WHO) Special Envoy, Dr David Nabarro.

“Quite a high level of the people reported with Covid-19 are involved in providing healthcare. This is an area I think that does need continued investigation,” the Special Envoy told this morning’s meeting (June 11) of the Oireachtas Special Covid-19 Response Committee.

“All the time, we are seeing there are multiple reasons why healthcare professionals get exposed and get ill.

“They are not always to do with the fact they are picking it up where they work. They may actually be picking it up in the community,” he suggested in response to a query from Fine Gael’s Deputy Colm Burke.

To date, healthcare workers accounted for over 30 per cent of the overall total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in this country.

Deputy Burke asked where this country stood in terms of infection rates among healthcare professionals in comparison to other countries.

Dr Nabarro raised two points, firstly his understanding was that Ireland, like many other countries, had had difficulty in the beginning in ensuring adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), “but according to my information these have been dealt with pretty comprehensively and in a satisfactory way”.

Secondly, he added, Ireland had had difficulty in trying to also make certain that within the hospital facility, every action possible could be taken to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spread in relation to the physical layout.

“In countries that have hospital buildings that are quite old and have not been purpose built, and are not ideal for dealing with infection control, it can be a bit of a challenge. I have seen that from many other countries around the world.

“Lastly, I do understand the Government is looking extremely hard at ways to reduce as low as possible the risk of health professionals. I would commend that,” he told the Committee members.

Deputy Burke added that a lot of procedures carried out in hospital were now resuming, and asked: “Should every person be tested before they go for a medical procedure within the hospital setting?

Dr Nabarro believed this was up to the Government but with the uncertainty around the number of people with Covid-19 that are without symptoms, his approach particularly in healthcare settings, would be quite liberal with regard to testing, both for staff and for patients, whether they are inpatients or outpatients.

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