Up to 80 homeless people tested for Covid-19

Up to 80 homeless people have already been tested for Covid-19 but those behind the initiative have warned that quicker results would allow them to stay ahead of the curve regarding those in emergency accommodation.

Up to 80 homeless people tested for Covid-19

Up to 80 homeless people have already been tested for Covid-19 but those behind the initiative have warned that quicker results would allow them to stay ahead of the curve regarding those in emergency accommodation.

Safetynet Primary Care are trained medics who deal with the health needs of rough sleepers and others and its CEO Fiona O'Reilly said its members had prepared weeks in advance by training to carry out the test for the coronavirus.

It has meant those in the homeless population have been able to "jump the queue" when it comes to being tested," Ms O'Reilly said, but the wait for a result was the same as for those in the general population.

Arrangements between the Health Service Executive and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive mean that special accommodation has been set aside for any homeless person who needs to self0isolate but who normally could not do so. But Ms O'Reilly said if the results from tests conducted by SafetyNet medics were prioritised, it would free up the available space more quickly for cases who needed it as those with negative results would know at an earlier stage.

"We have trained up testing teams and nurses are going out to the hostels and they are testing people," Ms O'Reilly said.

"They have tested about 70 or 80 [people].

"We jump the queue for getting the tests done but in the queue for getting the results back."

A helpline has also been set up for those in emergency accommodation to report any symptoms with doctors able to call back and conduct a triage, before then organising a test if required. Thoe awaiting a test and showing symptoms are also facilitated in self-isolation. It's understood around 200 extra beds have been made available for that purpose.

Ms O'Reilly said "at the moment, it is manageable" and that the system was working.

"The question is [what happens] when the spread of Covid surpasses the working of the system."

It's understood similar testing will get underway in other areas such as Cork and Limerick, if it has not been launched already, and Ms O'Reilly said another issue was the compliance with a self-isolation regime by some in the homeless population.

She also warned of the "unintended consequences" for health of the current coronavirus pandemic, including some people with other illnesses being afraid to present to their GP or the hospitals for treatment.

As work continues to ensure adequate medical care is provided to those who are homeless, the Deepend group of GPs, who work in disadvantaged areas of the country, tweeted its concern about access to testing for people with no transport and often living in overcrowded households with a higher prevalence of chronic conditions.

Separately, the FoodCloud organisation, which diverts unsold and surplus food from retailers to charities, has said it is hiring four warehouse operatives to ensure continuing supply.

Co-founder Iseult Ward tweeted that the initiative supports more than 500 charities and that "we know they need us now more than ever".

FoodCloud works with retailers such as Aldi, Lidl, Musgrave Group and Tesco to ensure that the surplus that arises in stores is donated to local charities and also has arrangments with other firms including Kepak, East Coast Bakehouse, Glenisk, Lakeland Dairies and many more.

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