Testing and tracing will require staff
by Hazel Gavigan

Fórsa’s head of health, Éamonn Donnelly, has said adequate staffing will be needed to make a success of the HSE’s proposed model of ongoing coronavirus testing and contact tracing.


He was speaking after HSE chief executive Paul Reid outlined the need for ongoing testing and tracing in the absence of a vaccine or effective treatment for the virus. Mr Reid said there were huge costs associated with any new system, and that proposals and costings were currently being considered by the Government.


Éamonn said that, despite the costs involved, expense shouldn’t be spared when it comes to providing staff with the necessary skills to operate it.


“Everyone agrees that the transition back to normality will have to be slow and carefully managed in order to minimise further risk. So we can’t put people in danger by rushing the roll-out of this new system before staff are properly equipped to operate it, he said.


Éamonn said the health service was about to move into a new phase following the first impact of the virus, and that a longer-term approach now needed to be developed.


“At the outset, workplaces had to adapt quickly in reaction to the pandemic, and health workers were disproportionately affected by this. It will take a while to return to life as we knew it. In the interim, we need cooperation between unions and employers to determine next steps.


“There were instances where staff went above and beyond the call of duty to fight the initial stages of the virus. But this cannot become the new normal. Any changes to staff terms and conditions required to operate a new testing and tracing system must be collectively agreed. While temporary reallocation of staff was acceptable and necessary for a time, it can’t continue indefinitely,” he said. 


The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) will have to sign-off plans for the new testing and tracing system. It is believed to be examining the potential costs based on levels of demand for the remainder of the year.

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