HSE urged to come clean amid reports of 'sterile accommodation hubs' in Cork for healthcare workers

The HSE has been urged to come clean on its Covid-19 crisis preparations amid reports that it's preparing "sterile accommodation hubs" in Cork for frontline healthcare workers.

HSE urged to come clean amid reports of 'sterile accommodation hubs' in Cork for healthcare workers

The HSE has been urged to come clean on its Covid-19 crisis preparations amid reports that it's preparing "sterile accommodation hubs" in Cork for frontline healthcare workers.

Builders have moved into a HSE-owned former cancer support house off Donovan's Road, close to the main gates of UCC.

The property was on the market for several months but the 'for sale' sign was removed over the weekend and builders moved in.

Residents said they believe the property is being kitted out as a temporary residential hub for key healthcare workers who may be asked to live there temporarily to avoid possible coronavirus cases at home or in their neighbourhoods.

It is believed such units will be a key part in the HSE's €420m Covid-19 response in an effort to maintain services.

But one concerned resident said there is concern that the property is being converted for used as an isolation unit and he called on the HSE to engage with the local community.

"We have a family member who has spent the last few months in hospital with sepsis and pneumonia, and who is now hugely immuno-compromised," he said.

"We are living on a knife-edge daily. And we are fearful about what the future may hold. This area is to home to many elderly people and it's right next to UCC. We need written guarantees from the HSE about the use of the property."

The HSE said a range of plans are in place and various measures are under consideration so that it is prepared for a range of potential scenarios.

"We will communicate with the public as and when various plans are finalised, but it would be confusing and unhelpful to say any more until these plans are confirmed," a spokesperson said.

Work is continuing to prepare an isolation unit on a vacant HSE property on the St Mary's healthcare campus on the city's northside.

Earlier, tech giant

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It is understood the worker was based at its main European headquarters in Hollyhill — home to a large multi-national workforce of more than 5,000 people.

The worker left the office last week after feeling unwell and was later tested for Covid-19.

In an email to its staff, the company said they are working closely with the HSE which has reviewed the case and assessed the risk to other employees as low.

However, some fellow Apple workers have been told to self-isolate as a precaution.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we wanted you to know that we've asked those employees who were in the immediate working environment with the individual to self-isolate and not come into the office for an initial 48-hour period," staff were told.

"We are also continuing our deep cleaning protocols of all office areas. Teams across Apple are closely monitoring the situation in coordination with the HSE and any new developments will be acted on immediately. In the meantime, our offices remain open on a normal schedule.”

A spokesman said they are continuing to regularly deep clean all of their offices and stores and will take all necessary precautions in accordance with guidance from health authorities.

It's understood that from today, the Bank of New York Mellon, based at the Cork Airport business park, will implement a new "social distancing" policy, with half the staff working from home while the other half are based in the office.

Meanwhile, a call centre in Belfast has been closed for deep cleaning after an employee tested positive for Covid-19.

Around 1,000 people work at the Halifax operation in the Gasworks area of the city centre.

It is understood staff have been asked to self-isolate, work from home or from a contingency site.

Lloyds Banking Group, which owns Halifax, said: "The Belfast Gasworks building has been temporarily closed to allow for the appropriate areas of the site to be cleaned, after a colleague based there was diagnosed with Covid-19. Our priority is the wellbeing of the individual, as well as the colleagues and visitors to the building. We're closely monitoring the developing situation and continue to follow official guidelines."

Two schools in Co Armagh are already closed for deep cleaning after a young person was diagnosed with Covid-19.

Newtownhamilton High School and primary school share the same site in Co Armagh and are expected to reopen next week.

Several sports clubs have also had to take precautionary steps after individual members tested positively.

- with reporting by Press Association

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999

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