06 Oct 2022

Meat plant debacle continues as Minister accused of misleading the Dáil

HSE concealing contact tracing problem from Government, says Deputy Denis Naughten

Key questions must be answered by Ministers on meat plants

Denis Naughten TD has written to Minister Simon Harris seeking the contact tracing figures for each meat plant across the country, after the figures he presented to Dáil Éireann on Thursday evening were contradicted by the HSE the following morning.

A large number of meat plants across the country reported clusters of Covid-19 over the past several weeks, with Kepak in Ballymahon having over 60 cases among its workers, as was confirmed by Bridgeways Family Resource Centre, which provided families with supplies and food packages while they isolated.

Commenting on the discrepancy between the two sets of figures Denis Naughten said: “Clearly, either the Minister was given the wrong figures by the HSE or the comments at Friday’s press conference were inaccurate.

“I have been very critical in the past of the way the HSE has been presenting contact tracing figures and this strategy now seems to have led to a situation where Minister Harris has inadvertently misled Dáil Éireann.

“I say ‘inadvertently’ because I provided the Minister’s office with 24 hours notice of the issue I was raising on contact tracing to ensure that I had an accurate and definitive response. And I firmly believe that this was the Minister’s intention.

“But what this does expose is the fact that the HSE is not even being transparent with the Minister for Health on what is happening with contact tracing and this goes to the core of the problem with this system.

“In fact, at a briefing with the three Roscommon/Galway TDs on Friday evening the HSE was unable to provide the local contact tracing figures, which seems bizarre if the process has been successfully completed.

“The HSE’s failure to provide such clarity to Dáil Éireann is, I believe, to conceal an underlying problem with contact tracing which is undermining the credibility of the screening programme.

“Testing and delivering results in the shortest time possible is the key to success in managing Covid-19. The delays we have seen in providing results and following up of close contacts are totally unacceptable and contribute to the spread of the disease.

“Unless we get this right and we have transparent answers from the HSE then we risk exposing our people to a second wave of Covid-19 infection.”

In his letter to the Minister, Deputy Naughten highlighted the importance of providing the correct information for members of Dáil Éireann, the people of Ireland and, more importantly, the communities where meat plants are located.

On Thursday last, Minister Harris said that the amount of contact tracing "is much higher than one third and is between at least 60% and 70%, although there are a number of cases in which there are contact and communications difficulties".

In his letter, Deputy Naughten said he was "amazed" when, on Friday morning, the HSE said that "community contact tracing within the meat sector was at about 90% in most instance", which he said was "in direct contrast" to figures provided by the Minister.

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