There are more than 7,000 health staff out of work, many due to a Covid-19 diagnosis or because they are close contacts of a confirmed case.
The HSE has said it is asking close contacts who are asymptomatic and who have had a negative test result to return to work as the healthcare system is under immense pressure.
HSE Chief Operations Officer Dr Anne O’Connor said more than 7,000 staff are currently absent across hospitals, nursing homes, home support services and community services. Around 4,000 of those staff are absent from acute hospitals.
She said many of these healthcare workers are out of work due to being Covid-positive or because they are a close contact of a confirmed case.
There is a derogation process that was agreed earlier in the pandemic that allows the HSE to ask staff who are close contacts to return to work. She said this is only used “as a last resort”, but it is currently being used.
She said testing for these staff is being prioritised and they must have a negative test before they can return.
O’Connor acknowledged that some staff have been unable to come to work due to childcare issues and said the HSE has been trying to facilitate staff in this position being at home, where possible. However she said with the levels of Covid-19 among staff and those deemed close contacts, “anybody else is really needed at work”.