Vaccinated healthcare workers must still isolate, despite staff shortages
A leading doctor has said double-vaccinated healthcare staff should not be exempted from isolating in a bid to tackle staff shortages.
Dr Alan Stout from the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland, said getting “infection numbers down” was more useful than isolation exemptions.
“At the moment, we have to balance the risk,” he said.
“If we have a lot of healthcare workers and just a lot of people in general who aren’t actually isolating after contact, we know from infection numbers we have at the moment, it spreads really, really quickly - and a healthcare environment is actually one of the biggest and most important places for spread of infection,” he told Good Morning Ulster.
“So I would still urge an awful lot of caution, this is simply the realty of high infection numbers at the moment.
“The answer to this is not to try and compromise on safety and on infection control, the answer to this is get our infection numbers down.”
Dr Stout’s comments came after two healthcare trusts issued an urgent appeal for staff over the weekend due to hospital pressures.
The Belfast and South Eastern trusts said they were under “extreme pressure” due to a rapid increase in patients with Covid-19.
In a statement, the Belfast Trust said pressures had arisen due to an intake of Covid-19 patients “in excess of predictions”.
The South Eastern Trust said it had significant staff shortages due to the need for staff to self-isolate.
The current surge in cases and admissions was ahead of the schedule that had been anticipated by healthcare professionals, according to Rita Devlin, acting director of the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland.
“I think people were planning for September and we now see we are at the end of July and we seem to be right in the middle of another wave again.
“The pressure of that is unbelievable on the staff.
We know our staff are being asked to open extra beds even though there’s not the staff to look after the patients in the beds.”
Health Minister Robin Swann tweeted to say the trust did not make such requests of its staff “easily”, adding it is necessary to “maintain services that are expected.”