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Ambulance staff in NI to be tested for coronavirus

Laboratory capacity is increasing to 1,100 tests a day, which gives greater scope for checking healthcare workers who are dealing with patients.

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Concerns have been voiced about supply of protective equipment for healthcare workers engaging with patients (Steve Parsons/PA)

Concerns have been voiced about supply of protective equipment for healthcare workers engaging with patients (Steve Parsons/PA)

Concerns have been voiced about supply of protective equipment for healthcare workers engaging with patients (Steve Parsons/PA)

Ambulance staff and their families in Northern Ireland who are displaying coronavirus symptoms will be tested, their employer said.

Laboratory capacity is increasing to 1,100 tests at day and that gives greater scope for checking healthcare workers who are dealing with patients, the ambulance service added.

Up to now the response has been limited by the need to protect capacity to screen patients in hospital.

The ambulance service said: “Ambulance staff providing patient-facing clinical care will be considered for testing.

“This will also include family members who are symptomatic, requiring
healthcare workers to self-isolate, as well as symptomatic healthcare workers who are self-isolating.

“Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) are currently working to put appropriate governance and assurance arrangements in place alongside the necessary training to deliver this service for our staff in NIAS from 26th March 2020.”

The priority for laboratory testing will continue to be for
patients in hospital.

The ambulance service added: “Samples from healthcare workers may have longer turnaround time than those from hospitalised patients and turnaround time will depend on whether laboratory testing is at capacity or not.”

Concerns have been voiced about supply of protective equipment for healthcare workers engaging with patients.

Stormont’s health department said “concrete” action is being taken on boosting Northern Ireland’s stock of protective equipment and its distribution across health and social care services.

NIAS medical director Nigel Ruddell said: “Last week NIAS began the process of testing staff who have developed possible Covid symptoms and also household members who are symptomatic leading to our staff being required to self-isolate.

“This process is being facilitated by the local hospital trusts and will allow those with negative results to return to work.”

PA