The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called for upgraded safety standards to be implemented as a means to control hospital infection rates.
It comes as almost 2,000 healthcare workers have caught the virus over the last two weeks in outbreaks directly traced to their workplaces.
In order to combat the problem, the INMO is calling for urgent upgrades to safety measures including a national requirement that high-standard FFP2 masks be used in all healthcare settings.
Cork University Hospital (CUH) is among the hospitals that have already introduced FFP2 masks as standard, but practices vary across the country.
The INMO is also calling for the distance between beds to be increased from the current one metre minimum to two metres, regular testing for all staff in healthcare settings on a rolling basis, and a safety review in each hospital.
The issue has been referred to the Health and Safety Authority.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said that the union should not have to campaign for basic safety measures in hospitals but that “precious little progress” has been achieved by the HSE.
“Hospital infection rates are out of control. This is directly harming frontline staff and depleting rosters.
“The HSE need to take control and issue strong national guidance to increase safety standards.
Our members are furious that while many wait to get even their first vaccine, HSE policy is leaving them exposed to the virus.
There were a total of 140 Covid-19 positive inpatients at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and 44 Covid-19 positive patients at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) on Friday.
As of Friday, there were 16 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Critical Care Unit at CUH and seven in the Critical Care Unit at MUH.
There were no critical beds available at both CUH and MUH.
Nationally, the total number of people in Critical Care Units was 215 with five suspected cases in Critical Care Units across the country.
In the 24 hours up to 8pm on Friday, there were five deaths in Critical Care Units across the country with 137 confirmed ventilated cases and three suspected ventilated cases.