Tracers getting ‘a fair degree of abuse’

HSE: Major change in the way infectious diseases are reported since the Covid-19 outbreak that has not always been well received

Before Covid-19, almost all positive test results for notifiable infectious diseases would have been delivered to the affected person, either by the general practitioner or their hospital clinician, as the meeting of the Joint Health Committee heard yesterday.

Dr. Kevin Kelleher, Deputy National Director, Department of Health and Wellbeing, Public Health and Child Health in the Department of Health and Wellbeing, Public Health and Child Health of the Health Service Executive, introduced the meeting.

He explained how that relationship has completely changed since the onset of Covid-19.

“We have had to completely change this relationship since Covid so that we can tell you now, not through your doctor, who is usually your family doctor or hospital advisor, but through someone in one of our centers. This is a big change, "said Dr. Kelleher.

The committee heard that most people were susceptible to tracers and followed public health advice and participated in their tests.

In response to a question asking him to characterize the nature of some difficult calls that tracers needed to handle, Dr. Kelleher notes that people were often "very unhappy" when told they were a contact.

It was a surprise and not what they wanted to hear, especially because of the effects of the 14 day motion restriction request.

He added, “There is a small cohort of parents who refuse to have their children tested and who are very angry about the proposal to have such tests as a result of the persecution process.

“I've been involved in these things for 30 years and it's very difficult to judge who is going to react badly until you get the call. Sometimes on a later call people come back and are very upset about things. They might ask why we called them instead of texting them and so on. It's a very difficult process because it's about dealing with human nature and people just have to try to see their way through it. "

Dr. Kelleher had made a number of calls, not routine, but occasional, and by and large the vast majority of people were very engaged and understood what was going on and participated, but occasionally some people found it difficult.

While he didn't have "really difficult calls," some people had had some "extremely difficult calls," and that was a problem and a difficulty. He said they tried to help and still got "a reasonable amount of abuse".

“I was in the middle when that happened and you can see the person on our side of the call visibly wilting as a result of the call. It's a difficult thing in this issue. "

He said there were psychological support systems in place for employees who felt they had bumped into a wall in the process and needed support. People had needed that and they had tried to support colleagues on these issues.

He agreed that the biggest problem right now is neglect in general and in parts of society that did not follow people's instructions.

"It is very difficult because this is the behavior change we are trying to cope with the disease until we have a method to deal with that does not involve the significant behavior changes that we are asking about right now. "

Yesterday's unscheduled meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee focused on "Covid-19 Contact Tracing: Health Service Executive".

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