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Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 "Swine Flu" - advice to medical practitioners

23rd September 2009

As well as the infection controls promoted by the HSE in light of “swine flu” (pandemic H1N1 2009), the Medical Council is recommending that all medical practitioners be immunised by vaccination to prevent contraction of the virus. This is to protect themselves, patients and colleagues when assessing, treating and vaccinating members of the general public.

While it has been shown that vaccination rates amongst healthcare staff are low, frontline workers must recognise the responsibility to provide a high standard and safe level of professional care.

The Medical Council welcomes the broader HSE statements that health care professionals can prevent contraction of the virus by the rigorous and consistent application of basic infection control and personal hygiene practices. These include adherence to hand hygiene and cough etiquette, rapid identification and separation of patients with communicable diseases, utilisation of appropriate personal protective equipment and environmental controls.

Medical practitioners should be aware of their professional accountability in this pandemic in order to control disease transmission amongst colleagues and patients. The Medical Council’s publication ‘A Guide to Ethical Conduct and Behaviour’, Section C – Professional Responsibilities states:

“It is unethical for doctors who believe that they might be infected with a serious communicable disease not to seek appropriate medical advice. Colleagues who are consulted have a dual role. They must counsel and support the doctor concerned, but they must ensure that the doctor does not pose a risk to patients and others.”

In a pandemic such as this, or wherever it is necessary to protect the welfare of society, medical practitioners may share information about patients with health protection staff.

The Medical Council also advises that all doctors should have a general practitioner of their own and should seek advice and help from another doctor rather than treating themselves.

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For further information please contact:
Ciara McMorrow, Corporate Services
01 4983153/ cmcmorrow@mcirl.ie