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Children's health

20th Apr 2023

Nurses slam decision to remove facemasks in healthcare settings

Rory Fleming

“Absolutely the wrong move right now”.

The decision to remove the facemask requirement in healthcare settings in Ireland has been slammed by nurses.

The measure, which was introduced in early 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic, made masks mandatory in all healthcare settings to help stop the spread of the disease amongst the population’s most vulnerable cohorts.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) announced its decision to cease the requirement at the beginning of April, as it announced a fresh wave of public health guidance.

Despite the removal of the requirement to wear masks, the HPSC has said the recommendations will remain in place for certain healthcare settings.

The HPSC stated healthcare workers should use a surgical mask or respirator mask “at a minimum, for interaction with patients with respiratory viral symptoms”.

Adding to that, the HPSC also said at the time that it would be appropriate to move away from the universal use of masks for healthcare workers, patients, and visitors in healthcare settings “outside of periods of high levels of community transmission”.

Included in their release of updated advice was that “a local institutional risk assessment is appropriate to determine the timing of a move away from universal use of masks in that particular location”.

However, the decision has not been backed by healthcare workers themselves, with the General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) voicing her discontent with its ratification.

“It’s absolutely the wrong move right now”, stated Phil Ní Sheaghdha.

The General Secretary added that people were continuing to get Covid-19 and other transmissible diseases in hospitals because of the overcrowding which has plagued the Irish healthcare system.

In March alone, overcrowding figures reached breaking levels, as just shy of 13,000 patients were treated on trollies and chairs in Irish hospitals.