Category: Archive

Officials’ missteps make SARS hot issue

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Opposition parties are seeking the recall of the Dail from its Easter holiday break and beleaguered Health Minister Micheal Martin’s handling of the situation has been strongly criticized.
So far, Ireland has no confirmed case of the illness, but there is widespread concern about the way a Chinese woman, variously described as “suspect” or “probable,” was dealt with.
There were delays in alerting the health department about the case, which involved a woman who arrived from China’s Guandong province.
With a big demand for facemasks from shops and deepening worry about next month’s Special Olympics — six teams are due from SARS-affected countries — public concern was not allayed by conflicting statements from officials about the condition of the woman.
Over a period of three days, Martin, his department’s chief medical officer, Dr. James Kiely, and the Eastern Regional Health Authority described the woman as having tested negative and therefore cleared, later changed her status to a suspect case, then a probable case and then back again to a suspect case.
The woman was initially given a facemask by St Vincent’s Hospital and sent back to a hostel where she was staying. Days later, the woman and her sister were snatched off the streets again in the middle of the night and taken back to hospital — reportedly by four facemask-wearing public health doctors who had suspended their strike action to help.
To a shocked public it was all a bewildering muddle that did nothing to inspire confidence. It was not the best practice and isolation procedures recommended by the World Health Organization for containing and managing a potentially infectious SARS suspect.
One radio host said SARS in Ireland should stand for “Shambolic Ambivalent Response from the State.”
The WHO said on Monday that Ireland remained with one probable SARS case in County Mayo several weeks ago. All other cases are categorized as suspect.
A spokesman said that dealing with SARS is not an “exact science” and there had been difficulties with a number of countries in categorizing cases. “The situation in Ireland does not represent a crisis in any way,” he said.
The minister’s SARS expert group, which has been monitoring the situation since mid-March, is meeting without the advice of key members who are striking doctors.
The 300 public health specialists — including health board doctors and the director of the National Disease Surveillance Center, Dr. Darina O’Flanagan — have snubbed an appeal from the National Implementation Body (NIB) to suspend their action and refer the matter to the Labor Court.
The NIB is a “last resort” compliance body for deadlocked disputes and is representative of both employers and trade unions operating under the umbrella of the national wage agreements.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese