Monday 17 December 2018

Hospital staff asked to clean drugs unit claim they developed occupational asthma from fumes

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Eilish O’Regan

Two pharmaceutical technicians are taking legal action against the HSE claiming they developed occupational asthma, leaving them out of work for two years, after they were asked to clean a cancer drug preparation unit using a powerful agent.

The case is being brought in the High Court arising out the incident which happened over the course of a number of days two years ago in Tullamore Hospital.

The two members of staff were asked to clean the oncology pharmacy department in July 2016, a job normally carried out by specialists in disinfection.

Their normal work in the unit was to prepare drugs for the treatment of cancer patients.

At the time they were asked to clean the unit it was found to have aspergillosis, a form of fungus which can affect the respiratory system,

The claim which has been lodged in the High Court also alleges the unit had an inadequate air extractor and was operating with only partial ventilation.

The two pharmaceutical technicians blame the chlorine- based sporicide they were asked to use to combat the contamination for causing them to develop complications.

They claim best practice was not observed and they were only given surgical gloves and masks for protection which did not protect them from toxic fumes, they allege.

Over the course of several days they allege they developed skin rashes and breathing difficulties.

They have been out of work since because they cannot return to work in same unit due to their medical condition.

They claim their daily activities have been curtailed and they have suffered a loss of pension contributions while on reduced income since then

The case which is being brought by Dublin solicitor Shane O’ Brien of Anthony Joyce and Co Solrs is expected to be heard in the High Court later this year.        

In response the HSE told the Irish Independent it does not comment on individual personnel matters. A spokeswoman for the Dublin Midlands Hospital group which includes Tullamore Hospital said the welfare of its staff is a priority.

“Any matters raised by staff where there is a concern for an individual’s health and welfare are managed in accordance with occupational health policy. 

“An expert review was undertaken within the hospitals aseptic unit and recommended improvement works.

“In following these recommendations, the hospital initiated internal reconfigurations which are being

carried out.

“There is ongoing engagement with staff in accordance with existing policies while the reconfiguration is underway.

“Contingency plans have been in place to ensure there is no impact on patient care.

“The oncology and haematology Unit is open and operational for patients who attend Tullamore Hospital.”                                                                                                                                                                         

She said the pharmacy Department is currently undergoing some necessary internal reconfigurations.  Patients continue to receive their treatment in Tullamore Hospital.  

“The hospital will continue to contingency plan, as normal, to ensure there is no impact on patient care and treatment as an ongoing priority.”

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