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SIPTU says health workers have a right to the truth

SIPTU Health Division representatives have called on the Minister for Health, Simon Harris to ensure information relating to the Covid-19 infection rates of all health workers is released without delay.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said: “Health workers have a right to the truth. This vital information is available but currently being held by Department of Health and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) under lock and key. We are calling on the Minister to intervene and ensure that this potentially life-saving data is released immediately.”

“The reality is that SIPTU representatives have sought answers as to why nearly 8,000 health workers have contracted the Covid-19 virus, why nearly a third of all Covid-19 infections are health workers, and why six health workers died of the disease, for weeks now.

The data SIPTU representatives have requested is simple and straightforward.

Firstly, we want the location of where each health worker contracted the virus, followed by the grade of the health worker, as well as the gender and age group. These questions need to be answered. Two weeks ago, the Health Service Executive (HSE) made a promise to release the data on the HPSC website. This commitment did not materialise which is in itself extremely disturbing.”

“We know that this data is available and we note that elements of this data has already appeared in the pages of the national press. It is our clear understanding that information gleaned by the HSE for the purpose of Occupational Health cannot be transferred to State Claims on a technicality, which the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has been deliberating for a lengthy period of time. This posturing by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner on a technical point about the use of information for a purpose of which it was not collected is putting the lives of health workers at risk and is allowing the Department of Health to block the release of information which it already has in its possession.”

He added: “Media reports in recent days make specific reference to nurses and midwives sustaining 35% of all Covid-19 infections. This is deeply concerning and warrants attention. However, the data published by the HPSC goes back to mid-April, and that same data also confirmed that allied health professionals, including radiographers and physiotherapists, account for 25% of all infections in the health service, health care assistants account for 17.8%, doctors 11.5%, porters 1.5% and 8.4% of those infected are currently not categorised. We suspect the uncategorised are deployed in the support services, as these are the categories in which the fatalities so far identified have occurred.”

“There is no need for any further obstruction or drama on this specific matter. The Minister for Health must issue an instruction that this information be immediately released. This is not only in the public interest, but in the interest of the health and safety of all health workers. Workers we all rely upon to protect us, in this time of anxiety and uncertainty.”

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