The INMO has been calling for a policy of a universal facemasks (at minimum) for all frontline healthcare workers in all healthcare settings. We wrote to the HSE on this point on April 3rd, and have repeatedly brought it up in meetings since. This is a matter of not only reducing transmission between staff or to patients, but a question of basic workplace protection.
I am glad to inform you that the HSE and HPSC have finally agreed to change their policy and are now rolling out new guidance for facemasks for all healthcare workers in all healthcare settings. The full new guidance is here, which was published this morning. The key points:
Surgical masks should be worn by healthcare workers when providing care to patients within 2m of a patient, regardless of the COVID-19 status of the patient.
Surgical masks should be worn by all healthcare workers for all encounters, of 15 minutes or more, with other healthcare workers in the workplace where a distance of 2m cannot be maintained.
This applies to all healthcare settings, including public and private residential care.
We will continue to work with members and the HSE to ensure a good supply of appropriate PPE (including facemasks). If you have any difficulty in this area, please first contact your local industrial relations officer or, failing that, you can call our dedicated PPE freephone hotline: 1800 320 087, or text 087 719 7188 (8:30am - 8pm, 7 days a week).
The government have also announced some childcare measures for frontline health workers, which we have strongly criticised publicly as insufficient and discriminatory. You can read our statement here. We will secure more details on these plans and seek more effective and wide-ranging measures from the minister.
We also want to remind members of the continuing importance of their Scope of Practice while working at this time. Specific advice on this for members is available here.
As ever, the most up-to-date information on these issues and more is published on our dedicated webpage: https://www.inmo.ie/Covid19
Phil Ní Sheaghdha