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Mater disputes allegations of delayed reporting of Covid cases

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Mater Hospital

Mater Hospital

Mater Hospital

The hospital under investigation for the late reporting of more than 200 Covid-19 cases had been emailing the data daily to public health officials in the Health Service Executive, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The Mater Hospital in Dublin has been accused of delayed reporting of the infections of 244 health staff with Covid-19 to the Department of Health last week.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan suggested at a press briefing last Thursday that the late reporting of the Covid-19 cases was responsible for the relative spike in new cases which rose to 426. He did not name the hospital.

The Health Service Executive said the matter was under review with the Ireland East Hospital Group and the Mater Hospital. However it is understood that preliminary investigations have found that the numbers of staff infections had been consistently reported twice to the health authorities.

The numbers of infected staff were emailed regularly to the public health section of the HSE by the Mater's occupational health team. The data was initially phoned in by staff and on March 22, the hospital was asked by the HSE to send in the staff numbers by email.

The numbers of infected staff were also separately reported by the Mater's national centre for infectious diseases but reporting to a different health agency.

As the national infectious disease centre, the Mater has routinely input data on all infectious diseases into a computer system called Computerised Infectious Diseases Reporting (CIDR) which is managed by the national Health Protection Surveillance Centre overseeing the control of infectious diseases.

The Mater Hospital has traditionally input data on infectious diseases relating to staff on an anonymised basis and continued to protect staff's identity with regard to Covid-19 infections.

The Sunday Independent understands that the Mater was asked not to upload anonymous data to the CIDR system in April. Then on May 11, the Mater was asked to start again uploading the data to the CIDR system. The hospital resumed uploading the anonymised data, including older positive tests for staff. Sources suspect this may be the reason for confusion over the late bulk reporting.

According to one source, it is not clear whether the test results reported by the Mater's occupational health department to the HSE's public health section were incorporated into the national figures.

Covid-19 has been a notifiable disease since February and as the centre for infectious diseases, the Mater, along with other hospitals, are required by law to report cases of infectious diseases.

Questions submitted to the HSE yesterday evening were still awaiting a response. The Mater declined to comment.

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In a statement issued last Friday, the hospital insisted it had reported all cases of Covid-19 positive results to the relevant authorities on a daily basis, providing all the information the HSE required. In addition, it met all the legal requirements to report infectious diseases. The hospital was working with the HSE to understand why the data may not have been captured.

The Mater also confirmed that contact tracing had been carried out on every member of staff who tested positive for Covid-19 through its occupational health department. It said more than 300 hospital staff had tested positive and a further 1,500 had self-isolated following contact tracing.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has questioned the level of contact tracing. He said on Friday that he noted the statement from the Mater but had not received assurances about the level of contact tracing carried out.

"It is a matter for Paul Reid and the HSE to provide assurances... and that work is under way now," he said.

The 244 cases from the occupational health department of the Mater are understood to cover March 16 to May 12.

In a statement last night, a spokesperson said the minister for health "has received a preliminary report from the HSE CEO. It is currently under review by the department". The statement continued: "The minister has received assurances contact tracing was concluded in all cases and all cases have been notified."

The HSE said last Friday it was not yet in a position to confirm whether the hospital reported the cases and the issue was under review.


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