Galway TD Denis Naughten has claimed that the testing and contact tracing system for Covid-19 has such “gross failures” that employers are being given their employees’ test results to pass along.
Speaking in the Dáil during time for questions for Health Minister Simon Harris on Covid-19, Deputy Naughten said that it is still taking weeks for people to receive test results.
“These delays in contacting those tested and following up on their close contacts is dictating how clusters of infection are being managed.”
Deputy Naughten was criticising the government’s response to clusters of infections in nursing homes and meat plants, saying that delays in testing and tracing had made the situation worse.
“We have been informed as public representatives by the HSE that people are being given their results within a day of there return from the laboratory and those who are positive are being contacted by a health professional.
“This is not happening and negative results are being long fingered for days and possibly weeks,” Denis Naughten said.
“In fact the system is so bad that employers are being provided with a list of test results directly and they are the ones informing employees as to whether they are positive or negative for Covid-19.”
“So will the Minister now confirm that medical data is being shared with employers before employees and explain to me why this is happening?”
Minister Harris responded by saying that Ireland is going beyond the efforts of many countries by providing community testing, rather than just testing people in hospitals.
The Minister said that Ireland will have the capacity to perform 100,000 tests for Covid-19 from next week, but acknowledged that there is an issue with turnaround times for test results.
“The Deputy is right though about the need to further tighten up turnaround times, absolutely he is. It was a challenge in relation to capacity, it’s now a challenge in relation to turnaround times.”
The NPHET aims to have a turnaround time for positive test results of three days from next week Minister Harris said, while adding that while this covers the majority of people, about 10% will be more complicated.
The Minister said that he does not have any information about employers and their employees’ test results, but that he would be happy to receive them.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said that the potential sharing of medical information about test with employers before going to the people tested is of “fundamental concern to the public” and needed to be addressed.
Minister Harris responded that as he did not have the particulars of the incidents alleged by Deputy Naughten, he would not comment on them.