Healthcare workers who are unable to work as a result of being a close contact of a person with COVID-19, are being asked to return to work if they are asymptomatic, the HSE has confirmed.
The health service is under increasing pressure due to the high number of COVID patients who currently need treatment, but also as a result of the high number of absent staff who must restrict their movements for 14 days because they are close contacts of COVID cases.
Over 7,000 HSE staff are currently not in work as a result of having COVID themselves, or because they are close contacts of confirmed cases. These staff work in a range of services, including hospitals, nursing homes and the community.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland show, the HSE's chief operations officer, Anne O'Connor, confirmed that the HSE is now asking healthcare workers who are close contacts of COVID cases, but who are not displaying any symptoms of the virus, to return to work.
She said this decision is necessary due to the serious shortage of healthcare staff.
Ms O'Connor noted that currently, 14 hospitals are dealing with more than 50 cases of the virus, while six of these hospitals have over 100 COVID patients.
There are now 1,750 COVID patients in hospitals nationwide and just 24 adult ICU beds are currently available in public hospitals. Fourteen hospitals have no ICU beds available.
Ms O'Connor said that asking close contacts to return to work is a "last resort" and these staff are being tested for COVID first and are then closely monitored.
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