Come clean over new coronavirus supplies, doctors urge Government

Doctors have urged the Irish Government to come clean over how long it will take to address problems with some Chinese coronavirus protective equipment.

Images posted online show gowns with three-quarter length sleeves, leaving arms exposed, and some staff have described gear as not fit for purpose.

A 200 million euro order has seen plane-loads of kit arriving in Ireland over recent days, and ministers have vowed good use will be found for it.

New coronavirus cases in Ireland
(PA Graphics)

It is intended to protect doctors and nurses who are braced for a surge in the number of Covid-19 patients in the Republic’s hospitals over coming weeks.

The organisation representing doctors, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), warned: “It is unacceptable to expect frontline health care staff to work without proper protection.”

Health chiefs have acknowledged supplies in some cases are different from what Irish medics are used to.

They are attempting to source additional equipment.

The IMO said: “We welcome the acceptance by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that there are problems with the recent supply from China and the fact that they are pursuing changes to future orders and alternate suppliers.

“However, we must again stress that doctors and other healthcare workers need assurances on the issues around personal protection equipment – the supply lines and the timelines in which the issues will be addressed in an open and transparent way.”

Coronavirus
The equipment is intended to protect doctors and nurses (Niall Carson/PA)

It said it was monitoring the ongoing situation closely.

“High quality and reliable personal protective equipment is an absolute necessity for frontline medical professionals and those working in each setting have to have access for the appropriate personal protective equipment for their roles so as to protect themselves, patients, and continue working in what are already highly stressful environments.”

Ireland’s Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said available equipment was different from that which the country’s healthcare professionals are used to.

“It is being tested and assessed by the HSE.

“Good use will be found for it. We will continue to look for additional equipment.

“It has become such a competitive environment for this equipment and we are looking at this all the time.”

Paul Reid, HSE chief executive, said supplies had been arriving on Aer Lingus flights since Sunday.

He added: “We are engaged worldwide to secure alternative stocks should these supplies not materialise to the extent that we expect.

“It is a very competitive worldwide market but our procurement teams have done really well to secure what we have to date.”

Meanwhile, official data has shown that almost 90% of those dying with coronavirus in Ireland are aged 65 and above.

Two deaths have been recorded among patients aged between 25 and 34.

A total of 160 clusters of infection have been identified, and Dublin has recorded more than half the total of cases.

Nursing homes are undergoing a particular problem and Mr Donohoe said that is being considered by the Government.

Consultants who normally do private work have been enlisted for public hospital work.

They are working alongside their colleagues but are seeking clarity on elements of their temporary three-month contracts during the emergency.

Elsewhere, Ireland’s Central Bank has warned the crisis is likely to make a 22 billion euro hole in the country’s finances and the number of unemployed is soaring.

Mr Donohoe said: “Change that in the darkest of years would have taken a year to happen has happened over the space of a number of days.”

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