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Senior health officials at odds on employers' getting workers' Covid-19 test results

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Tony Holohan and Paul Reid (Steve Humphreys/Beian Lawless/PA)

Tony Holohan and Paul Reid (Steve Humphreys/Beian Lawless/PA)

Tony Holohan and Paul Reid (Steve Humphreys/Beian Lawless/PA)

SENIOR health chiefs have offered contradictory views on employers receiving details of their workers’ coronavirus test results.

It comes after RTÉ reported that in instances of ‘mass screenings’ where a whole workforce is tested, the HSE issued results to employers.

The Data Protection Commissioner has received complaints on the issue.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan was asked about the issue at the Dáil’s Special Committee on Covid-19 Response.

He said the practice is "a breach of confidentiality, full stop".

Mr Holohan said: "employers should not be receiving result for employees".

HSE chief executive Paul Reid was asked about the matter later in the day and defended employers being given workers’ results “in extremely exceptional cases” such as in a pandemic.

"Generally and ultimately our process is overall to inform the individual first… usually through their GP," Mr Reid said in response to a question from Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy.

He said “in relation to some of the employers we have been proactively testing over the last few weeks - there is a responsibility and a derogation on the public health official to get those results out urgently.

“There may have been a case – probably one case that we know of - where it was notified to the employer of a significant number of positive cases”.

He said that was a judgement that the public health official made.

Mr Carthy asked him if he didn’t agreed with Mr Holohan that the practice would breach patient confidentiality.

Mr Reid repeated: “The ultimate way we want to do this is directly through the GP and the individual.

“That’s the route we’ve gone on in that process.

“There are exceptional cases where public health officials have a responsibility and have a derogation in terms of managing a major outbreak and that would be a responsibility that they take in extremely exceptional cases such as in a pandemic or such as in a major outbreak.”

Online Editors