Healthcare workers tested for Covid-19 continued to work but eventually tested positive, placing vulnerable patients at risk, it can be revealed.
While the HSE has said it cannot comment on individual cases, it has been established that frontline staff in non-acute health facilities in Cork, Kildare and Dublin have been tested for the virus and continued to work, only to subsequently get a positive diagnosis.
Grave concern has been expressed by leading politicians as the potential impact on vulnerable patients like the elderly in such community settings against the backdrop of a large number of Covid-19 clusters and deaths in nursing homes and long care facilities.
Labour TD for Cork East, Sean Sherlock, told the Irish Examiner he has learned of such an incident and said the revelation has “massive implications” for patients and fellow frontline workers alike.
"I know of one case where a frontline health professional, working in a long-term healthcare facility, was tested Thursday, April 23. The person continued to work that day and worked last Friday, April 24 also,” he said.
“It was only on Wednesday of last week that the person was contacted to be told they were Covid Positive. This has massive implications for patients and frontline workers alike,” Mr Sherlock added.
“It exposes a gaping hole in the Government's much-vaunted pronouncements around increased testing in long term care facilities. The big question arises as to why some healthcare professionals are not receiving results within 24 hours, thereby reducing the risk to others,” he continued.
Similar incidents have emerged both in Kildare and Dublin which have been notified to public representatives.
In response to queries from the Irish Examiner, the HSE did not refute the information but said only it “cannot comment on individual cases.” It said health care workers (HCW) who are symptomatic and are being tested as a result, are “advised to self-isolate”.
“If a HCW's results are COVID-19 Detected, Occupational Health informs the HCW they must continue to self-isolate as per the guidance and advise them to contact their GP for on-going medical management of care,” a HSE spokesperson said.
Latest figures released on Sunday showed another 19 deaths due to Covid-19, meaning 1,303 people have now died as a result of the coronavirus since the outbreak began.
The National Public Health Emergency Team also said the Health Protection Surveillance Centre had been notified of 330 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, meaning 21,506 confirmed cases of the virus here.
With the government updating its advice to those cocooning to stay at home apart from a short walk and avoid contact with others, the HSE said it was preparing a plan on how private hospitals can help carry out urgent non Covid-19 related procedures, many of which have been delayed because of the coronavirus.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said at a briefing that those needing treatment for conditions that are particularly urgent will be prioritised.
Mr Reid also said efforts to ramp up testing were continuing, with a continued focus on nursing homes.