Just 54 school staff reassigned to lower-risk duties after Covid-19 risk reviews

New figures show that 54 school employees, including teachers, special needs assistants (SNA), school secretaries, and caretakers saw their risk categories change from ‘high risk’ to ‘very high risk’ following a review
Just 54 school staff reassigned to lower-risk duties after Covid-19 risk reviews

HSE guidelines say that staff in the higher risk category can attend the workplace.

Less than 15% of school staff who appealed the Covid-19 risk category assigned to them before returning to work were successful in their application to be redeployed to lower-risk duties. 

New figures show that 54 school employees, including teachers, special needs assistants (SNA), school secretaries, and caretakers saw their risk categories change from ‘high risk’ to ‘very high risk’ following a review by Medmark. 

The Department of Education's occupational health service received more than 1,700 requests for an occupational health assessment from staff with concerns about their risk of serious illness from contracting Covid-19 through workplace attendance. 

Following these assessments before the beginning of the school year, 900 staff were deemed 'very high risk' and redeployed. A further 802 people were classified as 'high risk' following this assessment. 

HSE guidelines say that staff in the higher risk category can attend the workplace with appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures, or with PPE where social distancing is problematic.

However, the education unions raised concerns that insufficient protection against Covid-19 was being given to classroom-based staff with underlying health problems.

As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, an SNA receiving dialysis for end-stage renal disease was among a number of school staff with serious health conditions directed to return to classrooms.

In a parliamentary question put to her by Social Democrat TD Gary Gannon, education minister Norma Foley confirmed that 388 people went on to request reviews of the risk category assigned to them. 

A further seven people saw their risk category change from 'very high risk' to 'high risk', while the remaining 327 people saw their status remain unchanged. 

Due to recent changes in guidelines around people who are on immunosuppressant therapy, high-risk employees were invited to submit a new questionnaire to Medmark, Ms Foley added. 

“As of November 15, Medmark has completed a review of 32 newly submitted Health Risk Questionnaires, and of these, seven employees were re-categorised to the very high risk category.”

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