Call to test all health staff for Covid-19

National Covid-19 testing strategy for all healthcare staff urged as next step

A leading consultant has called for testing nationally for healthcare staff in hospitals as the next step.

“If we are testing meat factories and nursing home employees, I think the next logical step is to look at hospital workers,” Dr Laura Durcan, Consultant Rheumatologist and Physician at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, told Irish Medical Times.

She totally acknowledged the issues with testing capacity and reagents, but in an ideal world we would test all healthcare workers, ideally via occupational health, and particularly the large numbers of healthcare workers who interacted with vulnerable patients.

Dr Durcan first raised the proposal yesterday, (Sunday, September 6), on Brendan O’Connor’s programme on RTÉ Radio 1.

She explained to listeners that Beaumont, and possibly one other hospital, were the only ones testing absolutely everyone who was admitted for an overnight stay.

It was accepted that asymptomatic people were out in the community, and they wanted to be able to identify those people, as quickly as possible, so that everybody else in the hospitals stayed safe.

By doing that, they would find cases, which she underlined as a sign of success, which meant they were doing the right thing. Once they found asymptomatic cases of Covid-19, they shut down the wards where those people were, “and we chase it out of the hospital”.

She highlighted there was no national strategy, and perhaps one was needed where every hospital swabbed every patient who came in the door.

Nationally, there was also a need to consider whether serial testing for healthcare workers, which was already being carried out in the nursing homes, was needed.

She queried: “Do we need to look at people who are working in hospitals and are interacting all the time with vulnerable patients?”

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