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Effective contact tracing has not been “humanly possible” in some healthcare settings due to under-resourcing of occupational health departments, the Medical Independent (MI) has been informed.
In spring, departments received redeployed staff, but most have since been taken back. In some areas, there are local arrangements to support occupational health departments in contact tracing. However, as Covid-19 cases have escalated, the ability to do this work is under increasing strain.
Occupational health specialists reported to MI that services were stretched pre-pandemic, with one doctor describing current work pressures as “horrendous”.
Another warned: “There is no software for healthcare worker contact tracing, we haven’t been provided with any contact tracers. It is a very serious situation and very misleading I think, in the sense the public and other healthcare workers… I presume assume things are not like this.”
“The consequences are you could have possibly people going into work who shouldn’t be at work; you have people not being swabbed who need to be swabbed.”
Dr Lynda Sisson, Clinical Lead of the HSE Workplace Health and Wellbeing Unit, told MI: “We have a plan in place to develop a contact tracing system that will remove the everyday contact tracing from the occupational health departments in a matter of months. We are looking at every possible avenue to assist occupational health to focus on the key core competencies for the occupational health teams.”
Dr Sisson said specialist input from occupational health “would be part of the model”.