Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, has welcomed confirmation that the HSE is to suspend its practice of sharing medical results with employers before employees, but he has again questioned why the practice was used in the first instance.
“To date neither the Minister for Health nor the HSE have addressed the core point I made in Dáil Éireann last Thursday, that this breach of data protection was because the current contact tracing system is just not working.
“The suggestion has been that these disclosures were made to overcome a language barrier, but all examples I furnished to Minister Harris related to Irish people because most of the foreign employees are afraid to speak up.
“The key question that remains unanswered is why did the HSE blatantly disregard data protection laws regarding medical test results?
“I believe it is because those with responsibility for the management of Covid-19 are left in the invidious position of either waiting weeks for the contact tracing system to inform staff of their results or trying to get the information out quickly in order to reduce the spread of the infection. This cannot be tolerated, results should be provided directly to those tested as soon as they become available,” Deputy Naughten remarked.
Deputy Naughten made reference to a relevant situation in which one particular family was waiting seven weeks for COVID-19 test results.
“I personally know of one family who waited seven weeks to get results and ultimately only received them after I brought the delay to the direct attention of HSE national management.
“These delays in contacting those tested and following up on their close contacts is dictating how clusters of infection are being managed. For example, I could not understand that if there was such a swift turnaround in testing, as outlined to TDs by the HSE, why meat plants were not closed by public health officials until the COVID-19 screening results came back.
“But clearly the reason for the current management of clusters is because of the inordinate delays in providing results through the contact tracing system.
“What seems to be happening is that positive results are prioritised for disclosure and negative results are long-fingered because all results would have been issued to the contact tracing system by the laboratory at the one time. There is no other reason why there would be weeks of a differential between staff in a single facility being informed if they are positive or negative.
“This failure to get the system right is undermining the heroic efforts by every citizen in the State to stop the spread of this virus and we cannot allow a second wave of infection under any circumstances,” Deputy Naughten concluded.