News & Media

Kelly raises concerns around PPE availability

2 April 2020

Speech by Alan Kelly TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Health and Disability Services

We as members of Dáil Éireann need to practice what we preach. The public health advice is to stay at home during this crisis. Our democratic institutions are central to everything we do and if the Dail was discussing legislation the Labour Party would be present today. However, we are not. We are making statements on health and it is unnecessary to put people at risk and that includes all the workers in Leinster House. I am in continuous contact with Minister Harris and his officials, the HSE, who I had a long conference call with yesterday and all the other relevant organisations. They are answering my queries and taking my recommendations on an ongoing basis so in these exceptional circumstances I believe that suffices.

I want to thank the chief medical Officer, his assistant, the departmental officials, the HSE and their officials along with all their regional staff and of course all the healthcare workers front line and others across the country. I also want to acknowledge the work of the emergency services across the country who are doing so much to get us all through this crisis.

The volume of people who have come home to help in this crisis need to be thanked. They are putting the country first, doctors, nurses and other specialists who are commencing work across our healthcare facilities.

WE are heading into even more difficult times in the weeks and months ahead and I expect this crisis to go on for some time. The public have been resilient, and I expect that to continue and I thank them, but we do need to reassure them that we are doing everything we can to help them and those healthcare working heroes who are bringing us through this.

We need to ensure that we make the lives of our healthcare workers as easy as possible. Whatever we have to do, lets do it. We need to pay student nurses appropriately and I’m glad Minister Harris listened to me on this issue. He needs to make sure that 4th year students are treated the same as well as trainee radiographers and pharmacists as well and there are others too. This idea that any nurse or healthcare professional must pay to reregister or register during this crisis is insulting and needs to be fully addressed. Also, the registration process needs to be quicker.

I want to raise issues with testing. The change in the criteria for testing has caused some concern as regards how long people are waiting to be tested and how long they are waiting to get results. The prioritisation of healthcare workers and other such workers and those vulnerable is obviously the correct thing to do, however some of the waiting times are very long wo we need to get clarity over the amount of people that have been tested to sate, the amount of people who are waiting to be tested, the amount of people who are waiting for test results and we need data on geographical coverage and demographics. We also have a world shortage of testing kits and we ran out of them last Sunday. I understand we have now 100,000 a week coming into the country? Is this guaranteed and what efforts were made to ensure supply? As regards the shortage of reagents are there any sources within the country that can help with this?

The issues surrounding the labs is a big concern. We need way more lab resources and we need the pharma sector to help us so I would like to know what companies are helping us so we can thank them. We also need to ensure that all available public sector labs are available.

With regards to contact tracing I understand that there are 1200 people at work in this and that this can be ramped up to 4000. That is welcome. Please tell those organising this work not to use blocked numbers when calling people as many don’t answer. I want to ask what help mobile phone companies have been giving in this work and if an opt in app for contact tracing has been developed or is in the process of been done.

The moves to create clinical assessment units and self-isolation facilities across the country are very welcome as is the deal that has been put in place with regards to private hospitals, some of whom I believe should be maintained in public hands post this crisis. Will the Minister please publish the full deal that was agreed with the private hospitals so it can be transparently analysed.

I have concerns regarding the Nursing Home sector at this moment. I have been dealing with real issues in a nursing home near me that has had several deaths and other residents who have contracted the virus while the home is running out of staff. I’m being asked why they cannot access any resources of the 60,000 that signed up to help in an emergency? The CHO is doing their best in this situation, but they are struggling as well. Can we break down what resources are available across the different counties and regions in the country to help out in this crisis. I am having great difficulty explaining the fact that no resources are available. Furthermore, I believe that the nursing home sector has real deficiencies when it comes to PPE. They simply don’t have enough PPE. Its becoming a real issue and needs to be addressed now as the issues in the nursing homes will get much worse and it will be difficult to convince any emergency workers to go into nursing homes unless they are guaranteed the appropriate PPE.

When it comes to PPE for all our frontline staff, have we enough and is it of the quality required? Will the minister outline that we are getting everything we need for these workers?

Also, where are we with ventilators, will we be guaranteed the supplies that have been committed to? It is understood that we have secured a 100 a week for the next 10 weeks, I presume this still stands.

Finally, can I make a plea for healthcare workers who are having problems with accommodation as they do not want tot to put their families and in many cases elderly relatives at risk. We need to find solutions for them, and this is a real issue that needs action on immediately.

To conclude we in the Labour Party will do everything we can to help this Government and all agencies in the national effort to fight this virus.