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Robert Palmer

BAME healthcare workers in Oxford hospitals at ‘higher risk of Covid-19 infection’

A new study at Oxford University Hospitals has looked at the levels of risk by staff dealing with the pandemic.

Oxford University tested 10,000 healthcare staff to see if they had the virus and antibodies to it, as part of a new study.

Preliminary research has suggested that 11% of people working for OUH have had coronavirus at some stage, with the figure rising to 21% among staff working on Covid-19 wards.

The overall figure for Covid-19 infection among BAME staff was 14.7%, compared with 8.7% for white healthcare workers.

Among BAME healthcare workers, those who are black and Asian were at higher risk of the disease, with infection rates of 17%.

The chances of contracting coronavirus also varied across different hospital departments, according to the figures.

Positive results were more likely among those working in Acute Medicine (27.4%), and hospital porters and cleaners (18%.)

Staff working in Intensive Care and the Emergency Department had infection rates of 9.9% and 12.1% respectively.

Terry Roberts, chief people officer at OUH, said “special steps” have been put in place by the trust to “ensure that all BAME staff working at OUH feel safe and supported”. 

This includes adding them to the “at risk” group, advising managers on how they can ensure any risks are mitigated and hosting sessions to voice any potential concerns.

An infection prevention and control plan to minimise the spread of Covid-19 among staff and patients has also been put in place.

OUH's Director of Infection Prevention and Control, Dr Katie Jeffery, said: "It has been an invaluable exercise to have evidence of the varying patterns of infection across our four hospitals - not only to identify those staff who had the infection and so protect staff and patients, but also to identify those staff groups and departments that are at highest risk. We are continuing to offer testing to our staff to keep them and our patients safe. 

"A whole bundle of measures were brought in to protect staff and patients, so it is difficult to know exactly which factors were most important in this outcome. This research will be useful as we move forward, as we assess whether those staff with antibodies retain their immunity to the virus," Dr Jeffery added.

Based on the findings, an infection prevention and control plan to minimise the spread of Covid-19 among staff and patients has been put in place.

Prof Meghana Pandit, OUH's Chief Medical Officer, explained: "We have drawn up recommendation for all staff across our four hospital sites, including portering and cleaning colleagues. 

"This has included staff continuing to use level 1 PPE for all patient contacts, and reinforcing PPE-focused training and safety huddles; ensuring strict social distancing and mask-wearing for patients and staff; continuing to triage patients according to symptoms of possible COVID, including atypical presentations in the elderly; reviewing cleaning procedures and maximising OUH's rapid diagnostics and lab capacity."

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