Is oth liom go bhfuil orm é seo a ardú sa Dáil mar tá an t-ábhar chomh tromchúiseach sin. I regret having to raise this matter. I wish I was asking about when the new hospital will be built or the extraordinarily long waiting lists. However, it has been brought to my attention that a patient with active tuberculosis, TB, was admitted to hospital in Galway. Of course, that can happen. However, in this case the patient was not suitably isolated and another patient contracted TB as a result, as did approximately 12 or 13 staff who have been diagnosed with latent TB and are undergoing treatment with antibiotics. Some have suffered adverse reactions to the antibiotics.
I am obliged to raise the matter because it should have been dealt with efficiently and effectively. The patient should have been isolated and other relevant protocols immediately enacted. It seems that did not happen quickly enough and the patient who came in with active TB and had a history of active TB was not isolated for several weeks, during which time the patient was resident on multiple wards and several people were exposed. Contagious diseases are a risk in the helping professions for nurses and doctors and for patients. However, we need a system that anticipates such risks and rolls out appropriate protections. That does not seem to have happened.
The infected staff, who include nurses and care assistants, do not feel that the system has looked after them. For example, they had to attend their GPs for treatment and pay for those attendances. They had to make a case to be granted sick leave. Having suffered the trauma of contracting latent TB, they must also deal with the feeling that they are not being cared for and are expected to just get on with it.
The staff were not tested in a timely manner. One of those to whom I spoke asked to be tested and was told that tests are not carried out willy-nilly and that he or she was only exposed to the patient for a short time. Subsequent testing of other care staff indicated they had contracted latent TB as a result of a short exposure. The staff member in question had to again request a test, fill out a form for a second time and was then diagnosed with latent TB and all the consequences thereof.
I am disappointed that the Minister, Deputy Harris, is not here to address this issue, although that is no reflection on the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, whose attendance I appreciate. This is a very serious matter involving an infectious disease and an apparent failure to urgently roll out the proper protocol and procedures in order to protect staff and patients.