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Concerns raised about unvaccinated staff

By David Lynch - 04th Apr 2022

The issue of unvaccinated staff was raised at a HSE meeting, with the National Director of Human Resources stating that there may be a “moral obligation” on people to get vaccinated to protect patients. 

However, Ms Anne Marie Hoey noted there remained no mandatory vaccination obligation for staff. 

The issue of Covid-19 vaccination was raised at the December meeting of the HSE people and culture committee when members asked about the Executive’s policy relating to unvaccinated staff. 

According to minutes, Ms Hoey “advised that whilst there may be a moral obligation on people to get vaccinated to protect patients, colleagues, etc, there is no mandatory obligation to get vaccinated”. 

“There is, however, a mandatory risk assessment for unvaccinated staff working in a clinical area. Whilst some staff may feel uncomfortable working with unvaccinated staff, it is something that is addressed by management in each area.” 

A HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent last month that guidance regarding such mandatory risk assessments had since been “stood down” in line with the dropping of other pandemic restrictions. They also said the Executive does not have figures for the number of unvaccinated staff. ”Participation in the vaccination programme is not mandatory,” the spokesperson said. “A staff member’s vaccination status is their personal information and staff are not required to disclose. 

“Public health advice is that all citizens [aged five and older] should avail of the vaccine. In line with the lifting of most of the Covid restrictions, guidance regarding risk assessments in the HSE has been stood down. There is no centrally collected data on vaccinated/ non-vaccinated staff in the HSE at present.” 

Meanwhile, the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation have written a joint letter to the Chief Medical Officer calling for the reintroduction of public health measures in light of the surge of Covid-19 cases and its effect on hospital services 

“Since the mask mandate was lifted on 28 February, 11,020 patients have been without a bed in our hospitals and as of this morning 1,610 patients are in hospital with Covid, with over 5,000 healthcare workers sick with Covid,” according to the letter, which was sent on Thursday 31 March. 

“In addition to the very serious patient risks, there are very significant risks for medical and nursing staff who are now exhausted from being on the frontline, dealing with wave-upon-wave of patients diagnosed with Covid and the other drivers of increased attendances, including a significant increase in acute mental health emergencies and increased paediatric attendance, while dealing with their own personal and family anxieties. 

“The problem of overcrowding at this level is not a new phenomenon in our hospitals – medical professionals have been sounding the alarm for a long time now. Immediate stronger public health measures are needed – not doing so and abandoning the hospitals to the inevitable will lead to unnecessary preventable higher levels of illness requiring hospital admission and sadly, for some, a fatal outcome.”

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