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Family consider lawsuit as watchdog investigates deaths of healthcare staff

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Minister Stephen Donnelly

Minister Stephen Donnelly

Minister Stephen Donnelly

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is investigating the deaths of a number of healthcare staff believed to have caught Covid-19 while at work, the Herald has learned.

At least one family of a healthcare worker who died with the deadly virus is considering legal action against what they claim was a "failure of duty of care" provided to their loved one at their workplace and by the Government.

Since the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Ireland on February 29, it is known that eight healthcare workers have died with the virus.

Some of the first known deaths occurred in April, just over a month after the first confirmed Covid-19 case, and when supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were under pressure nationwide.

The last known death of a healthcare worker was in July when emergency department medic Dr Syed Waqqar Ali, who worked at Beaumont, the Mater and Tallaght hospitals, passed away.

The Herald can now confirm the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is carrying out "preliminary investigations" into some of the deaths.

Anonymous

The relatives of a deceased healthcare worker, who wish to remain anonymous, revealed they have been "co-operating" with the HSA on their enquiries and that they "hope their preliminary investigations" will shed light on the circumstances of their loved one's death.

But they added: "The employer of our family member had a duty of care to them.

"It's not about money for us, it's all about them (the Government) acknowledging that our loved one worked so hard and we would like them to formally apologise to us that they contracted the disease in the workplace."

In late July, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly confirmed a compensation scheme would be set up by the Government for the relatives of those healthcare workers who died.

Four and a half months later a Department of Health spokesperson said that the scheme is not yet near completion, indicating that it could be several months before the Government gives its approval.

The HSA has overall responsibility for the administration and enforcement of health and safety at work in Ireland.

A spokeswoman confirmed that it is aware of reports of a number of healthcare workers who have reportedly died with Covid-19.

"The authority has commenced initial enquiries or preliminary investigations into a number of these matters to ascertain the relevant facts."

A TD who was on the Oireachtas Covid-19 Committee said he was "not made aware that there were HSA investigations taking place".

He said members had been assured by senior officials that all precautions to protect staff in terms of PPE and other requirements were in place.


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