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INMO submits petition citing suffering of healthcare workers; union demands compensation or vacation relief for their distress service during pandemic

DUBLIN: There is a growing demand for nurses to be compensated for the indescribable distress service experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) submitted a petition to an Oireachtas committee, citing models implemented in various locations, including Northern Ireland.

The organisation stated in the petition that healthcare workers in Northern Ireland and Scotland receive a one-time bonus of €500 and a special payment of €1,500 for health workers in France. It is hoped that this will be discussed in today’s committee.

Last November, the INMO had filed a claim seeking 10 days’ compensation leave in view of last year’s hard work and overwork. But HSE is not yet ready to respond to this claim.

The proposed new public service pay agreement stipulates a one per cent pay rise in 2021 and 2022 and the possibility of receiving extra money from a sectoral bargaining process. But there is no provision for pandemic related compensation payments in this deal.

They faced terrible challenges

The INMO said in a statement that frontline health care workers have been facing major challenges since the onset of Pandemic. The organisation points out that the safety of workers has not been given adequate priority.

All the decisions of the HSE and the government in this regard were slow. The organisation cites a number of issues as examples of the negligence of the government and the HSE such as the delays in the release of universal face masks and high-quality masks, vague interactions about health policy changes, vaccinations without clear guidelines or local preferences, rush decisions regarding student nurses and midwives in the workforce.

COVID-19 has affected at least 24,730 health workers. The submission states that an independent legal examination is required in this regard.

The organization alleges that vaccination is done “in a haphazard manner”. It says geographical and clear data are available from health workers showing where the source of the virus. But these data were not used to plan the vaccination strategy. “And as a result, distribution did not strictly follow the virus’s trajectory,” INMO said. “Instead, the rollout commenced in a haphazard manner, not focused on the locations or workplaces with the highest infections or geographically bordering areas with high community infection.” the submission said.

Serious failures of HSE

INMO said the spread of the virus has also led to a sharp increase in hospital infections. “The lack of routine testing in acute hospitals has been a major failure on the part of the HSE and must be addressed.”

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) told the committee that more than half of the medical and dental staff shortages were due to COVID-19. “This has not only meant the curtailment of services to patients, but it has necessitated doctors working additional hours on top of their full week and already onerous on-call rosters at night and weekends.”

The Irish Medical Organization (IMO) has said that the staffing shortage has severely affected the mental health of medical workers in the country.

“Long working hours, excessive workload, redeployment, requirements to cover for absent colleagues, inability to get proper rest and take proper breaks, and difficulties in accessing childcare are all contributing to high rates of stress and burnout among doctors. This is particularly evident among NCHDs [non-consultant hospital doctors] who are also seeing their training impacted by Covid-19 and among public health specialists, where morale is at an all-time low.”

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