Almost 90% of healthcare workers who developed COVID-19, got the virus in work, new figures have shown.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), figures it received from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show that 88% of healthcare workers who were confirmed to have COVID-19, got the virus in a healthcare setting while working.
Some 4% got the virus after contact with a confirmed case, 3% got it as a result of community transmission, while a further 3% got it as a result of travel.
The HPSC figures cover the period up to May 30, by which time, 8,018 healthcare workers had been infected and seven had died.
By that date, 60% of those infected were still ill, while 19% had recovered. The status of the remaining workers was unknown.
Overall, healthcare workers make up one-third of all COVID-19 cases in Ireland, and nurses make up one-third of those, making them the largest single group of workers affected by the virus.
The second largest group affected is healthcare assistants, who account for around one-quarter of all healthcare cases.
"One in three COVID-19 cases are healthcare workers and one in 10 are nurses. These figures show the vast majority have caught the virus at work. They cannot simply be accepted as normal. We need to tighten procedures and test more to ensure that frontline staff don't get the virus they are fighting. This isn't just about PPE, it's about policy too," commented INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
She insisted that the Government should classify COVID-19 that is caught in the workplace as a workplace-acquired personal injury.
"This would not only reflect reality, but ensure that the full range of health and safety rules would be rolled out to protect frontline workers," Ms Ní Sheaghdha noted.
The INMO is also calling for two other policy changes to combat the high rate of infection among healthcare workers:
-Facilitate healthcare workers who come into unprotected close contact with COVID-19 to self-isolate for 14 days without exemptions
-All healthcare workers, not just those in nursing homes or clusters, should be provided with regular COVID-19 testing.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.