Frontline NHS staff in North Wales with coronavirus symptoms still not being tested
Frontline NHS staff in North Wales who are showing symptoms of coronavirus are still not being automatically tested for the infection.
The Local Democracy Reporting service has learned that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is having to ration tests because of a shortage across Wales.
So far, the health board has tested 340 staff who have shown symptoms of the virus and work in “specific priority areas”.
Across Wales, only 1,500 staff have been tested, according to Public Health Wales.
A spokesman for BCUHB, which employs around 15,500 staff, said: “To date 340 members of health board staff have been tested for COVID-19.
“We are following guidance provided by the Chief Medical Officer to determine the criteria for staff testing.
“Based on this guidance, healthcare workers in patient facing roles who are symptomatic and who work in specific priority areas are currently being considered for testing.
“We recognise that the availability of testing is frustrating for many of our staff, and we welcome the work undertaken by the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to increase testing capacity over the coming weeks.”
Board chair Mark Polin has already said BCUHB had been given inadequate amounts of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – and claimed some was not of a high enough quality.
The LDR service understands there is limited availability of Covid-19 antigen tests across Wales, which is forcing Betsi Cadwaladr to choose which staff to test first.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething claimed a contract with a Swiss company that was supposed to supply 5,000 extra tests a day had not been honoured.
First Minister Mark Drakeford then named the company as pharmaceutical giant Roche.
However, the company reportedly denied it had a direct contract with Welsh Government to supply tests when questioned by the BBC, saying the UK Government was purchasing tests for the whole of the UK, including Wales.
Health Minister Mr Gething has already admitted extra coronavirus tests “would have made an earlier difference” to the management of the infection.
On Saturday, March 21 , he said Welsh Government was aiming to conduct 6,000 tests a day by April 1, rising to 8,000 daily tests within a week.
Public Health Wales said its current daily capacity for testing across the whole country is 800 to 1,100 people and was “continually looking to expand it in the coming days and weeks”.
By Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter
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