The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is calling for the implementation of a universal face mask policy for all workers in healthcare settings including nurses.
It comes as latest figures show that healthcare workers make up over a quarter of the COVID-19 positive cases tested in Ireland and that nearly one in ten (9.2%) cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Ireland are nurses.
A recent report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) suggested that the use of surgical masks by healthcare workers for “personal protection and source control can be considered as a measure for reducing transmission within healthcare settings”.
Speaking to the Echo, Liam Conway, Industrial Relations Officer for the INMO in Cork said that the HSE had not adopted a universal policy on the use of surgical masks, but said that he believed universal usage of masks could help “to protect staff, their colleagues, and service users.”
The INMO is also calling for more frequent and detailed publication of statistics on healthcare worker infection, including the source of transmission, in addition to updated guidance on PPE and for occupational health, ensuring that healthcare staff are given appropriate and safe time for self-isolation.
“The overall public health measures are having a welcome and substantial impact on the spread of COVID-19. Worryingly, rates of healthcare worker infection are on the rise,” said INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
“We need to urgently see a detailed breakdown of where the infection is occurring, in order to take rapid corrective action. That should include a review of policy to ensure everyone working in a healthcare facility has the appropriate level of PPE. It is consistently our members’ top concern.
“We also need to see these figures for healthcare workers published officially and regularly. Clarity and transparency on this issue will prevent unhelpful, runaway speculation which has caused great fears amongst our members and their colleagues in other professions.”