Fran McNulty of RTÉ broke the news on Twitter this afternoon.
He said the Data Protection Commission is apparently dealing with complaints that employers at meat plants and nursing homes received the Covid-19 test results of employees before they were given to workers.
— Fran McNulty (@franmcnulty) May 19, 2020
In many cases, the first time a staff member heard they had Covid-19 was from their boss, because the test results were sent to employers who informed workers before they received news from HSE.
In response, former Irish Medical Organisation chief, Dr Ronan Boland, said conveying the results in this would be a significant privacy breach.
Significant privacy breach, if true.This highlights the risks where testing is done without a named clinician ordering the test and, ultimately, having clinical responsibility for it.
— Ronan Boland (@boland_ronan) May 19, 2020
Commentators on social media were shocked at the news, with some pointing to the perceived cosiness of the meat industry and the political establishment.
Wow. If that doesn't show the inappropriate closeness of industry and government I don't know what does..
— John Malone (@jonniefarms) May 19, 2020
Others pointed out that employee rights had been breached.
An employer surely knows if the employer was unwell/had to be tested. Simply ask for the letter stating whether pos/neg. That is the right of each employer, not to get the results first. Your employer is not your GP & therefore has no right to a persons result before the person.
— Joanna McDermott (@JoannaMcDermo11) May 19, 2020
And that workers were being treated like cattle:
Almost as if they are treating the workers like… em… cattle
— Alan Caulfield (@alan_caulfield) May 19, 2020
Gript editor John McGuirk tweeted: “There’s bad, there’s horrendous, there’s despicable, and then there’s treating employers as if they are the owners of Gladiator schools in the late Roman Republic and the employees as if they are the stock. What’s very funny about Ireland is how it hasn’t changed at all. ”
There's bad, there's horrendous, there's despicable, and then there's treating employers as if they are the owners of Gladiator schools in the late Roman Republic and the employees as if they are the stock. What's very funny about Ireland is how it hasn't changed at all. https://t.co/UxwdEmGdDV
— John McGuirk (@john_mcguirk) May 19, 2020
The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said giving coronavirus test results to employers before workers was a “breach of confidentiality”.
However, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, told Independent TD Denis Naughten that it was sometimes necessary in the interests of “public health” to give the results of confirmed cases of Covid-19 to the management of meat plants.
That’s a poor excuse. If this practice had the approval of Cabinet then this government is guilty of serious over-reach in assuming the right to breach the privacy of citizens in this pandemic.