CONCERNS have been raised about the number of Covid-19 testing and contact tracing staff in Cork amid plans to begin returning staff to their original posts in the coming weeks.
HSE figures show that some 78 staff were redeployed to Covid-19 testing and contact tracing in Cork during the Covid-19 pandemic, from areas such as nursing, dentistry and occupational therapy.
The HSE has been attempting to recruit permanent staff for the testing and tracing, including 60 for contact tracing, in both Cork and Kerry.
In a reply to Cork TD Thomas Gould (SF), the health service said it has recruited 50 percent of the recruitment target, and that it plans to begin sending redeployed staff to their original posts in cohorts on November 2.
Speaking in light of the information, Mr Gould raised “serious concerns” about the recruitment plan for Cork and Kerry testing and tracing services in light of what he described as “current understaffing and inability to cope with contact tracing”.
'We can suppress the virus': Level 5 restrictions come into effect in Cork https://t.co/W5YGHfWzy6— EchoLive.ie (@echolivecork) October 22, 2020
“It is abundantly clear that the 60 replacement contact tracers are not enough,” he said.
“There should be no need to recruit people now.
“We had the opportunity to prepare for a second wave of this virus,” he added.
“Last week, it was clear that this opportunity was not used to build ICU (intensive care unit) capacity in Cork.
“Today, it is clear contact tracing wasn’t built.
“Was there no preparation done for the second wave of Covid-19?” asked the Cork TD, who claimed there will not be enough staff.
“People will be returned to their original positions and then redeployed to contact tracing in a loop until we get a vaccine,” he said.
“As workers, families and businesses face Level Five restrictions, we cannot waste the next number of weeks as apparently the summer months were wasted.
“The Minister must deliver additional capacity.” In reply to Mr Gould, Michael Fitzgerald Chief Officer for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said the HSE is “currently actively recruiting” so that staff who have been temporarily redeployed to swabbing centres and contact tracing centres can return to their permanent roles.
Mr Fitzgerald explained that a number of successful candidates from the current recruitment campaign have already started work in Cork and Kerry, allowing for increased workforce at community test centres.
“As the numbers of new staff coming on board increases, it will also allow redeployed return to their core roles,” he said.
He added that the first cohort of staff will be sent back to their original roles on the week commencing November 2, and this process will continue on a rolling basis thereafter.