Disgraceful that home help staff are not being tested for Covid-19

28 October 2020

Labour Leader and Health Spokesperson Alan Kelly T.D has slammed and the described as disgraceful the fact that home help staff are not being regularly testing for Covid-19 despite coming into close contact with elderly and high-risk people on a regular basis in the community.

Deputy Kelly was speaking after receiving a reply to a PQ from the HSE confirming that there is no programme of testing and contact tracing for home help staff within the HSE.

Deputy Kelly said:

“This is an absolute disgrace. Home help staff are healthcare workers working with some of the most vulnerable people in the community throughout this entire crisis and the fact that they are not being regularly tested for Covid is completely unacceptable. They are regularly in contact with the very people we are trying to shield from this disease.

“The Minister needs to address why a testing and contact programme for home help workers is only now in development nearly eight months into this pandemic. This should have been put in place months ago. These workers are potentially putting themselves and their service users in danger by not being regularly tested for Covid.

“Home help staff should be regularly tested for Covid in the same manner as other healthcare workers. Nearly 1 in 5 of all Covid cases in Ireland has been in healthcare workers. This is yet again another example of Minister Donnelly not being across his brief. We need an explanation from him as to why it has taken nearly eight months to put in place a programme to test home help staff.



PQ ref 20/30236

To ask the Minister for Health if home help staff are receiving regular Covid-19 tests; and if not, the reason (details supplied) ~ these peoples work patterns brings them in contact with elderly vulnerable people daily

Home Support Services play an important role in providing personal care to people in their own homes and support to carers. Home Support services for older people are provided either by directly employed staff or by voluntary and private providers who have formal tender arrangements with the HSE to deliver the services. The type of support provided includes personal care and, where appropriate, essential household duties relating to the client’s assessed needs.

The spread of COVID-19 throughout our communities has posed significant challenges for many areas of our Older Person’s Services, including Home Support Services. The HSE continues to work closely with providers and community staff to identify where service is most required. This is to ensure, insofar as possible, that Home Support Services can continue where needed most. The requirements of physical distancing must be encouraged, supported and maintained so as to keep our staff and service users safe and prevent any further spread of the virus.

Work is currently underway within the HSE on the development of a service model for COVID testing and contact tracing, led by Niamh O’Beirne, EMT & Lead for the testing and tracing programme. The purpose of this work is to develop a sustainable operating model going forward. Service for Older Persons considerations will be a key element of the design of the pathway to include referral, swabbing, laboratory testing, result communication and surveillance/outbreak management.

Any recommendations arising from the development of the service model for testing and contact tracing relating to the delivery of Home Support Services will be considered and implemented, where required.

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