"This is a national emergency. It should be treated as such."
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation have requested urgent government intervention, laying out a five-point plan that they feel should be implemented as soon as possible.
They state this is due to the rapidly increasing numbers of COVID cases leading to unprecedented pressure on the frontline workers.
INMO President and emergency department nurse, Karen McGowan, said:
"The message from our members is very clear. The system is overloaded and they cannot cope. Decisions at every level are happening too late to prevent infection and overburden. The consequences are increasingly clear - our frontline members are paying the price."
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:
"This is a national emergency. It should be treated as such. The public health service was not fit for purpose before the pandemic – it is now under a level of pressure not seen before. We are at the point where staff are not able to cope. There are huge numbers of very sick patients, with 7,000 HSE staff now out for COVID reasons. Over 2,500 healthcare workers a week are getting the virus.
"Our Executive Council has set out five practical measures the government should intervene with. We need all hands on deck in the health service and frontline staff must be protected. Safety standards need an urgent upgrade. Last year, the INMO had to campaign to get facemasks in healthcare settings. We were told it was not possible or necessary, but eventually they listened. We now know that all staff need to be issued with high-standard FFP2 masks, as has been done in Cork University Hospital.
"It is beyond time to nationalise all private hospital capacity and to provide childminding for healthcare workers with children. Similarly, we cannot ask students to take on more work at the expense of learning, for no or low pay."
The five-point emergency government intervention they have requested is as follows:
1. Increased safety standards: Upgrade level of PPE in healthcare settings to FFP2 masks, and an end to policy allowing asymptomatic close contacts return to work.
2. Private hospital capacity to be fully nationalised into the public system, providing additional beds and staffing to the service in the coming weeks. Current government plans are to use only a third of this capacity.
3. Childminding provision to allow parents of schoolchildren attend work. This could take the form of partial school reopening for families of healthcare staff or an expansion of after-school care. This need is particularly acute among members with children in primary school.
4. Healthcare worker vaccination priority to be continued, with a latest date set for when all healthcare workers will have received the vaccine.
5. Protections and pay for nursing and midwifery students and interns who are facing high COVID risks on no or unacceptably low pay, in many cases without necessary employment rights and protections.
The full statement by the INMO can be found right here.