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Covid-19 Pandemic

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 July 2020

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Questions (1056)

Alan Kelly

Question:

1056. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health his views on the reason so many healthcare professionals have been infected with Covid-19; and the details of the investigation he will commence to address this. [14892/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Data on cases in healthcare workers is published by the HPSC and is available here: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/surveillance/covid-19casesinhealthcareworkers/COVID-19_HCW_weekly_report_19062020_v1.0%20for%20website.pdf.

The Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group has developed a methodology to determine the recovery rate by considering the number of hospitalisations, ICU admissions, deaths and the dates of confirmation for each case. They have advised the Department that as of 3rd June, our recovery rate in healthcare workers is 93%. This is a higher recovery rate than in the general population, because relatively few healthcare workers have been hospitalised and very few admitted to ICU.

It is worth noting that Ireland, in contrast with many other countries, maintains a very wide definition of a healthcare worker for surveillance purposes and hence international comparisons should be interpreted with caution. In Ireland, a healthcare worker is anyone who works in any area of healthcare across community and hospital settings. It includes, for example, administrative staff, catering, maintenance, IT etc whereas in many other countries it is a considerably narrower definition of frontline workers or even just doctors and nurses. Our very broad definition of healthcare worker along with extensive testing contribute to our proportion of all COVID-19 infections that have been in healthcare workers.

There have been several studies worldwide of healthcare worker COVID-19 infection rates which have shown an infection rate of 5 to 10% of HCWs, whereas in Ireland this rate is close to 3-4% of HCWs based on estimates from the CSO Labour Force Survey of between 225,000 and 250,000 people working in Ireland who would identify as healthcare workers or as working in a healthcare setting.

In an article published by Hunter et al in the Lancet, on 2nd of May 2020 referred to a study in Newcastle (UK) on the 10th and 11th of March, where a random sample of hospital healthcare workers were tested and 5% were COVID-19 positive. This random sample testing was repeated on the 30th and 31st of March and 20% of healthcare workers were COVID-19 positive.

In a Dutch study (Eurosurveillance, Reuskin et al,26/03/2020), 400 healthcare were tested between the 27th of February and the 6th of March 2020 and 2.5% were positive for COVID-19. Between the 6th and the 8th of March 2020, 1,100 HCWs were tested and 4.1% were COVID-19 positive.

As such, it would not appear that the rates of infection among Irish healthcare workers are not out of line with the experiences of comparator countries. However, I have asked my officials to examine this issue further so as to ensure that we are doing everything possible in relation to this crucial aspect of the response to Covid-19.

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