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04 Jul 2022

BIG READ: The curious case of the Carlow TD, the radio interview and the 'boiler suits'

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Ireland is in the midst of a global pandemic as the country and its frontline staff continue to battle the deadly coronavirus.

Covid-19 has claimed hundreds of lives on our island, but one of the more serious statistics to stem from the myriad data we're burdened with every day - is that almost 4,000 healthcare staff in the Republic have contracted the virus. 

This statistic - behind which there are thousands of families and loved ones concerned or grieving - has prompted Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to become one of the most contentious issues to raise its head during the pandemic. 

The curious case of the Carlow TD, the radio interview and the "boiler suits" began after Fianna Fáil's Jennifer Murnane O'Connor made claims on the airwaves this week about the standard of PPE at a local hospital. 

Deputy Murnane O'Connor appeared on KCLR's flagship show, KCLR Live, on Wednesday, April 22 for an interview which lasted approximately five minutes.

During her brief call in to the show, she claimed that "some staff are actually wearing boiler suits" at St Luke's Hospital. 

The claims made by the local representative over the standard of PPE in Carlow/Kilkenny's St Luke's were immediately challenged by the Ireland East Hospital Group (IEHG) - of which St Luke's is a member. 

A statement from IEHG was read out by the show's presenter immediately after the interview on air which rebuffed the TD's claims.

Carlow Live also contacted IEHG about the claims and their statement said: "The Ireland East Hospital Group, working with the HSE, are working continuously to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of PPE for all Hospitals in the Ireland East Hospital Group.   

"All PPE provided to hospitals must be infection control approved.  

"PPE which is not approved cannot be used in hospitals."

It is worth noting that the bold used above has not been put in by Carlow Live, that is how the IEHG presented their statement to this website. 

Here's some of what Deputy Murnane O'Connor said in the interview on KCLR: "I think there is a big issue with the PPE and particularly in hospitals and in the Kilkenny hospital I know some staff are actually wearing boiler suits. 

"Now, boiler suits are fine and all if you wanted to go out and paint a wall or if you were getting a fill of oil maybe.

"But these boiler suits that some staff are wearing because they don't have the proper gowns, they're not the proper gowns that stop infection and it's a worry. 

"I've had people ring me with concern, I mean families, a lot of these staff members are going home to young children, they can't talk to their parents because they have to keep their distance and yet they're wearing gowns, boiler suits that are not fit for purpose. 

"It's a huge concern for me, it's a huge concern for their families, for their parents."

During the interview, Deputy Murnane O'Connor added: "I've been on to the Minister, I've been on to everyone again during the week about getting proper PPE for healthcare workers and for staff that are in hospitals. 

"I think last week when we lost those two healthcare workers in Kilkenny, that's huge and it was a huge effect on the families, on the staff...

"I mean they’re all doing an excellent job, from the doctors, the nurses, the healthcare workers, the staff in the kitchen, everyone is doing their best but you need to make sure you have the proper PPE because at the end of the day we have to go by our guidelines and we have to make sure that these staff are there, whether it's through healthcare, whether it's hospitals. 

"They’re giving a great service, they’re going in there, if you see yourself with the statistics, that 25% of people that have the coronavirus are healthcare workers, that's huge percentage wise. That's a worry and it's a concern."

Carlow Live put a series of questions to the Deputy about her claims and the statement made by IEHG to KCLR and Carlow Live in response to her interview.

It was put to the Deputy that IEHG issued a statement to the station - which was promptly read out after her interview - clarifying that all equipment used in St Luke's is "infection control approved".

Carlow Live asked her if she accepted the statement by IEHG or if she maintained her claim that some staff were wearing "boiler suits" and wearing what she claimed to be suits that were "not fit for purpose".

It was put to Deputy Murnane O'Connor that based on the hospital's statement, it would appear her claims were inaccurate. 

She was then asked: "Do you accept that or can you provide proof to corroborate your allegations? 

"If you can provide evidence, with a picture or otherwise, how do you know the gear in the picture is not approved PPE gear?

"Is it possible that the images you were provided with were not inadequate 'boiler suits' but actually, they were of approved PPE gear?

"If you accept your information is wrong, is it not dangerous as a local TD to go on radio without confirming very serious allegations against a hospital in a time when there is a national pandemic?

"Do you accept that such misinformation during this crisis is unhelpful, dangerous and unnecessarily panics the public, the staff at St Luke's and their loved ones?"

Carlow Live contacted Deputy Murnane O'Connor and the Fianna Fáil press office on Saturday morning, no response had been received at the time of publication. 

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