By Ellen O’Riordan
The HSE has confirmed to the Roscommon Herald that employers receive Covid-19 results before the employee tested in “exceptional circumstances”.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said “it has been necessary to convey results of confirmed Covid-19 cases to employers” in exceptional circumstances, including where mass screening has been arranged and a significant number of positive results for employees are confirmed at the same time.
She said this is to “ensure the employees can be sent home quickly for their own health, as well as for the health of their fellow employees, and to prevent the spread of infection.”
She said this is allowed for under the Infectious Diseases Regulations 1981, which stipulates that a medical health officer shall “take such steps as are necessary […] for preventing the spread of such infection.”
The manager of a facility has a “responsibility to manage their service, ensure effective cohorting and ensure that infective staff are not at work spreading infection.” she said, adding that employees who test positive for Covid-19 also receive a phone call from the Department of Public Health or the Contact Management Programme. In these calls, Covid-19 patients are told what they must do, including self-isolation and self-care, she said.
Independent Roscommon-Galway TD, Denis Naughten, who had raised this issue in the Dáil last week, said he understands the merits of such measures being taken in a public health emergency, but said that some “pretty basic checks and balances” must be put in place. He said he is aware of at least four facilities, including nursing homes and meat plants, where employers have been informed ahead of employees.
“There were instances where staff were not informed after management got the test results and staff continued to work in the facilities,” he said, adding that preventing such actions is “the very basic reason why this information was being provided to them.”
“In most instances it wasn’t a doctor that informed the staff it was another employee. Clearly these lists had been circulated to a number of individuals in the organisations and this is personal medical data,” he added.