‘I personally know of a family who waited 7 weeks to get results’ – Naughten

The Health Service Executive’s (HSE’s) decision to suspend its practice of sharing medical results with employers before employees, has been welcomed by independent TD Denis Naughten.

However, the Roscommon-Galway representative has again questioned why the practice was used in the first instance.

He is urging the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and the HSE to address his assertion that “this breach of data protection” is reflective of flaws in the contact tracing system.

“The suggestion has been that these disclosures were made to overcome a language barrier, but all examples I furnished to Minister [Simon] 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,” the deputy said.

Meat plants

Speaking about the delays in informing people of their results, Naughten added that: “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.

“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.

The TD went on to claim that positive results, in his opinion, appear are prioritised for disclosure and negative results are postponed because, he says, 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,” the TD concluded.