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HSE will ‘likely’ seek return of retired healthcare professionals – CEO

The HSE will “most likely” seek to bring back some retired healthcare professionals amid the Covid-19 international public health emergency, CEO Mr Paul Reid told RTÉ This Week on Radio 1 yesterday.

Asked on the programme if the HSE would ask retired health professionals to return, stop impending retirements and recruit more staff, Mr Reid said there would be a “range of initiatives”.

“We will recruit exactly where we need all of the public health professionals. We will most likely bring back some retired health workers to maximise capacity throughout [this process].”

On Saturday, the National Public Health Emergency Team met to consider guidance from the Expert Advisory Group on managing healthcare workers who are close contacts of a confirmed case.

This guidance was developed in light of the recent diagnosis of Covid-19 in a patient hospitalised in Cork University Hospital, which has led to a significant number of close contacts with healthcare workers.

Dr Cillian de Gascun, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group, said: “There is a risk to patients of acquiring Covid-19 from an exposed healthcare worker.

“However, if a health facility cannot be staffed safely to provide critical services, then the following guidance to mitigate risk will assist: healthcare workers who have had close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 and have developed symptoms should be excluded from work; healthcare workers who have had close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 and have not developed symptoms, and are deemed to be essential workers, may work, provided they observe strict adherence to infection prevention and control precautions, and undergo twice daily active monitoring by occupational health, for 14 days after contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19.”

Speaking after the National Public Health Emergency Team meeting on Saturday, Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health, said:  “Covid-19, as with other infectious diseases, creates risk to patient care in two ways – the risk of transmission from an infected health care worker and the risk of serious impact on patient care by loss of significant numbers of essential staff.

“The National Public Health Emergency Team has decided to adopt the guidance of the Expert Advisory Group, to be implemented in Cork University Hospital and Limerick Hospital immediately.”

Asked on This Week if patients would be informed if the healthcare worker treating them had been a close contact of a diagnosed patient, Mr Reid said the protocols were under discussion locally with Cork and Limerick hospitals.

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