Basic data protection rights of individuals working in meat factories and nursing homes have been breached, according to Independent TD Denis Naughten, after it came to light that management in some of the facilities had received individuals' test results before the individuals.
The information was first reported by RTÉ and came to light in a letter from Minister for Health Simon Harris to Deputy Naughten.
Minister Harris wrote that the decision to highlight the results to management first in some cases was so workers could be sent home quickly.
It has been necessary in the interests of public health to convey results of cases confirmed COVID-19 to the management of the plant
“It has been necessary in the interests of public health to convey results of cases confirmed COVID-19 to the management of the plant to ensure the workers quickly can be sent home from the factory floor for their own health and that of their fellow employees,” the minister wrote.
“Employees with confirmed COVID-19 also receive a phone call from Department of Public Health or the HSE contact management programme (CMP) detailing what they need to do in response to their diagnosis including self-isolation and self-care.”
However, Deputy Naughten insists all individuals should have been told their results first.
“The suggestion has been that this was done to overcome a language barrier, but in all instances that I furnished to Minister Harris these were Irish people because most of the foreign employees are afraid to speak up,” stated Naughten.
He also expressed concern over delays in contact tracing and the impact this could be having in prolonging the life of the virus in workplaces.
“These delays in contacting those tested and following up on their close contacts is dictating how clusters of infection are being managed,” Deputy Naughten said.
“For example, I could not understand that if there was such a swift turnaround in testing, as outlined to TDs by the HSE, why meat plants were not closed by public health officials until the COVID screening results came back.”
Last Sunday [17 May], there were 15 clusters of COVID-19 reported in meat factories around the country.