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Recent Covid-19 surge ‘very difficult’ for services for homeless community

The current wave of Covid-19 cases has proved challenging for homeless community services in the Dublin area, particularly as a result of the reduction in staff numbers due to the virus, this newspaper has been told.

“This present surge has been difficult,” Dublin-based GP and founder of Safetynet Primary Care Dr Austin O’Carroll told the Medical Independent (MI).

“Initially we had a surge in our staff numbers who were infected  or  close contacts.”

According to figures provided by Dr O’Carroll to MI since the beginning of December:  “We have supported 52 staff who work in Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) -funded services who have been Covid-positive.”

The positive cases have also increased within service users during this period.

There are 65 DRHE Covid 19-positive homeless service users that are currently supported within DRHE/HSE Covid isolation facilities with another 105 DRHE service users who are suspect or close contact cases who are in DRHE/HSE Covid-19 isolation facilities.

“Since early January in our homeless population we did have a rise,” said Dr O’Carroll. “But we still think the numbers have been well contained. We have only three deaths in [the]homeless [population] since Feb 2020. Of these one was infected in hospital.”

There are 3,000 homeless individuals  in the DRHE area and approximately 2,500 staff working in either DRHE or HSE-funded services working with DRHE/HSE accommodation facilities.

There are 282 medically vulnerable homeless individuals that services are directly supporting in shielding facilities as part of the HSE Winter Plan. There are approximately  another 1,000 service users who are accommodated in long term accommodation or other facilities who receive significant support and have complex health vulnerabilities.

In total since March 2020, 165 DRHE Covid 19-positive homeless service users have been accommodated in DRHE/HSE Covid isolation facilities while 1335 DRHE service users, who were suspected of having Covid-19 or close contacts, have been accommodated in DRHE/HSE Covid isolation facilities.

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