'A high risk strategy' - INMO calls for clarity on impact of new Covid measures
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Association (INMO) is calling on the government to outline the impact new Covid measures will have on the health sector.
It comes in the wake of new relaxed rules for close contacts, which were confirmed today (January 12) by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly.
According to the new rules, close contacts who have not received a booster vaccine will have to isolate for seven days, while fully vaccinated people with no symptoms must isolate for five days, take regular antigen tests and wear a higher grade face mask.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said the decision to reduce isolation time "needs to be examined".
She said, "Weakening the public health advice now has the potential to lead to more people contracting the virus.
“We know that many asymptomatic close contacts have been a feature of the Omicron variant. By allowing potentially infected people to continue to work, this is going to have a knock-on impact on case transmission."
Ms Ní Sheaghdha highlighted the availability and affordability of higher grade masks and antigen tests as "a huge concern".
She said, "The public will need to have no difficulty from an availability or affordability point of view of complying with this change to guidance. Currently the availability and affordability is a problem for nurses and midwives who are working at the centre of the risk so we can only imagine the difficulties this will now pose across society.
"This is a high risk strategy considering the annual pressure on hospitals in January and February and considering the current overcrowding and lack of inpatient beds for the next six weeks."
The General Secretary is calling for nurses and midwives to be properly briefed.
She said, "Nurses and midwives need to be briefed on what exactly is required of them, when patients are admitted for care in respect of isolation protocol in order to work safely over the next six weeks.
"Nurses and midwives have endured intense stress for almost two years as the pandemic has persisted and evolved with the emergence of new variants. Despite exhaustion, nurses and midwives continue to provide care to patients under extremely difficult conditions."
The new rules are due to come into effect tomorrow (January 13) at midnight.
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