Healthcare workers must be protected – derogation must not apply

19 November 2021

Labour health spokesperson Duncan Smith said the confusion surrounding derogations of healthcare workers must be clarified by government immediately. Deputy Smith said it is simply unsafe to expect healthcare workers to work if they are close contacts and will lead to massive outbreaks in hospitals and other settings.

Deputy Smith said:

“The Labour Party fully supports the position of the unions on this matter. Unfortunately, we know government are afraid to grasp the nettle because our health service is so under resourced it is on the brink of collapse.

“Workers have been flagging the perilous situation in our hospitals for a number of weeks. Frontline workers are always the first to see the wave coming and unions and workers have pointed to this well in advance.

“There is also huge confusion over how the system is currently being run. Healthcare workers are receiving mixed messaging locally about at what point day zero begins. All healthcare workers, if deemed a close contact, must receive a PCR test on day zero.

“We also need government to step up on antigen testing. The Labour Party are calling for antigen tests to be made freely available in the community. We are coming up to bank holidays over the Christmas period and the current system of close contacts receiving antigen tests in the post will simply collapse at a time when we know there will be families and friends socialising. There can’t be any further delay on this.

“There is a huge sense of foreboding heading into the next few days and weeks and our healthcare workers are already exhausted. There are fundamental flaws in our health service that have brought is here. Government have had a number of months to identify flaws in the system and be ready for managing issues like healthcare workers being deemed close contacts, like antigen tests, like ICU capacity.

“Intensive care staff are both exhausted and worried about what lies ahead. They know the reality is that our ICU capacity is deeply under resourced – we have 6.5 ICU beds per 100,000. This is truly shocking in comparison to the EU average of 11.5 per 100,000. These are structural issues that the government should have dealt with over the last number of months. But yet again, we see a total lack of planning and almost surprise by government that the system is on the brink of collapse.

“Our frontline healthcare workers cannot be the ones to pay the price for this lack of planning. They cannot be exempt from the 5 day isolation rule. It is unsafe and unfair.”

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