Posted: Thu 1st Oct 2020

Ambulance staff in North East Wales fear lack of coronavirus testing ‘could lead to more deaths’, politician claims

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 1st, 2020

Ambulance staff in North East Wales are fearful a lack of testing could lead to more deaths from coronavirus, a politician has claimed.

Conservative Senedd Member Mark Isherwood said he had been approached by emergency workers in the area over concerns they are not being routinely tested.

It has led to worries due to ambulance crews coming into regular contact with elderly and vulnerable patients.

Mr Isherwood raised the matter with Health Minister Vaughan Gething during Wednesday’s, September 30, plenary session of the Senedd.

He highlighted correspondence received from the Welsh Ambulance Service’s chief executive Jason Killens in which he said only staff displaying symptoms of Covid-19 were being tested based on Welsh Government guidelines.

The news comes as local lockdown measures are set to be introduced in four out of six north Wales counties, including Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Conwy, at 6pm today following a rise in cases.

Speaking from his home in Flintshire, Mr Isherwood said: “I’ve been contacted by ambulance staff in north-east Wales concerned that the lack of ambulance staff testing could contribute to deaths due to COVID-19 in hospitals in north Wales.

“When I pursued this with the Welsh Ambulance NHS Trust, the chief executive stated that for asymptomatic ambulance personnel, testing is deemed neither appropriate nor reliable.

“Their deputy chief executive said, ‘If and when the scientific evidence supports repeated testing of asymptomatic individuals, then it will become Welsh Government policy and will be adopted by us at that point’.

“How, therefore, do you respond to the statement to me by these ambulance staff that although it’s of paramount importance that ambulance crews are protected from the transmission of the Covid-19 virus, most ambulance crews have not once been routinely tested, and only symptomatic staff have been given tests?”

The MS said he believed ambulance crews should be provided with the same level of testing as care home staff, who are currently checked every fortnight.

In his response, the Health Minister said the comments made by the service were “correct”, adding there was no scientific evidence to support testing asymptomatic ambulance staff.

Mr Gething said: “The special vulnerability of care home residents is a different factor to the way that paramedics undertake their jobs and the range of people they come into contact with.

“It’s also a fact that we don’t see the same level of staff change within direct contact when it comes to the ambulance service and dealing with people within the community.

“That isn’t really a comparable position to the regular teams of people that need to care for people in care homes.”

He added: “It is the case that if the evidence changes, we will, of course, be happy to shift our position.

“There’s nothing inconsistent with the current policy decision and the best, most up-to-date scientific evidence and advice.”

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesman said the correspondence read out by Mr Isherwood was an accurate reflection of the trust’s position and it did not wish to comment further.

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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